President Joe Biden’s climate change policies are hampering the United States's efforts to counter Russian aggression against Ukraine, according to one of his top congressional allies.

“I don't know that there's a coherent strategy, and if there is, I think the messages are mixed,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told State Department officials during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “I don't really believe that the U.S. is full-throated leaning into helping our European allies deal with their energy needs.”


Biden’s team has struggled to identify energy supplies that could replace the Russian oil and natural gas flowing into Europe, where allied governments are paying collectively about $850 million per day for Russian energy even as Western powers try to impose economic sanctions that would punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine. Amid that dilemma, the Interior Department canceled three oil and gas lease sales — a late Wednesday announcement that drew a gently phrased but unmistakable rebuke from Kaine.

“If we're the largest energy producer in the world and we know that, at least transitionally, our European allies need energy from sources other than Russia, that us going to Saudi Arabia and say, ‘Please produce more energy when we're not willing to do it ourselves’ — I just don't get it,” Kaine said.

State Department Assistant Secretary Karen Donfried, who leads the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, acknowledged the need to “wean” Europe off of Russian energy supplies.

“The hope in the administration is that there's a way to marry the climate concerns with the energy security needs,” she said, noting that Biden has tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to try to alleviate oil prices. "And I think if you look at some of the new technology, like the small modular nuclear reactors that, for example, Romania is pursuing with us, that there are some real opportunities to, in fact, marry those two goals of climate and energy security.”

Kaine conceded that the just-scrapped drilling auctions would not cure the energy crisis, but he described the decision as a "mixed message" amid the crisis in Europe. He surmised that the various components of Biden’s administration have failed to engage in “meaningful cooperation” with each other to balance competing U.S. interests.

“I get the feeling that there's sort of a left-hand, right-hand problem and that some of the administration is really concerned, as they should be, about climate and some of the administration is really concerned about trying to backstop our European allies on energy,” he said. “I don't really see meaningful coordination.”

U.S. officials have attempted to square those circles by urging other major energy producers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to increase their output in order to offset a prospective embargo on Russian oil, but the Gulf states have declined, to the frustration of U.S. policymakers.

“You asked them for help, and let’s just be honest: They said no,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said during the hearing. “At some point, we have to deal with that reality. This is the most important crisis that the world has faced, it is the No. 1 national security priority for the United States, and our allies in the Gulf have been asked for help and have said no to us. It’s up to us as a country as for whether there is any consequence to that decision.”


Kaine, who ran for vice president in 2016 as Hillary Clinton’s running mate, anchored his pressure on Biden’s climate policies in that Gulf rebuff.

“And then the Europeans are looking at us, and we’ve got supply that we could use, at least transitionally, that we're apparently not willing to use,” he said. “And in effect, if they were looking at what we’re doing — we’re asking the Saudis to help them, but we’re leaving our own assets, which could be used to help them, sort of stranded right now.”