Why is the U.S. continuing to pursue a policy that strengthens Russia and weakens our allies?
Like life, a presidency is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Joseph Biden intended his presidency to be about tackling the climate crisis – his most urgent priority after containing Covid-19. On his very first day in office, President Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline project, which was to carry millions of gallons of oil from Canada to refineries in the United States. The executive order canceling Keystone also revoked oil and gas development at national wildlife monuments.
A few months later, Biden lifted sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline planned to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany, and ultimately approved it. Previous administrations opposed it as increasing German dependence on Russia and letting Russia deprive Ukraine of revenue by circumventing existing gas-transit networks. As of 2020, Russia supplied roughly 65% of Germany’s natural gas imports and 40% of European Union imported gas. Italy, which imports some 90% of its gas, is also heavily dependent on Russia.
Finally, citing environmental concerns, Biden withdrew support for the EastMed Pipeline in January 2022. According to an accord between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, the underwater pipeline was planned to stretch 1,180 miles across the Mediterranean Sea, connecting Israeli gas to Cyprus and Greece, and on to Italy. It was expected to cost about $7 billion, and would have carried 10 billion cubic meters of gas a year initially, with the possibility of eventually doubling capacity. Biden’s withdrawal killed the project for practical purposes.
In the buildup to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two of Europe’s largest economies – Germany and Italy – worked hard to weaken preemptive sanctions. Germany refused to terminate the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Even after Putin purported to recognize Ukrainian provinces as independent countries, while essentially rejecting Ukraine’s independence, Germany merely halted certifying the pipeline. But, it refused to commit to canceling it altogether. Italy fought to limit threatened sanctions to a few narrow sectors – excluding energy in particular. Even now, with Russian troops all over Ukraine, the E.U. continues to fight stronger sanctions like excluding Russia from the SWIFT banking system.
Add to this Biden’s poor foreign policy judgment. As former defense secretary Robert Gates put it, Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
In a world where energy dependence is strategic weakness, Biden’s policies hamper efforts to keep the United States energy independent, and hamper if not hamstring our allies’ efforts to export energy while lessening other allies’ dependence on Russian oil and gas. Biden, Germany, and the European Union in general thought they could will a hydrocarbon-free future into being by legislating it, and sacrificed security and freedom of action in the present to that goal. Putin’s threats were a mere distraction from their high-minded priorities.
Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine wasn’t part of the plan.
Great leaders, like Lincoln, were able to shift gears from their plans to confront real-world crises. They had greatness thrust upon them, and accepted the mantle.
Should President Biden suddenly develop strategic wisdom and the resolve to act on it, he should reverse his reversal on EastMed. Canceling it was a mistake. Building a pipeline to transport natural gas from Israel to Europe would be a win-win for Israel and for our European allies, who need gas from a friendly source now and in the immediate future.DONATE
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