A long drag on US diplomacy, the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, Joe Biden has finally resigned himself to making a strong comeback as one of Washington’s key “levers” to prevent Moscow from occupying Ukraine.
The White House has not clarified whether the US president made the energy threat during a virtual summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
But in front of the press, his adviser on national security, Jake Sullivan, insisted that the path was “absolutely a priority”.
He noted that the gas pipeline was not yet operational and that certification was pending on the German side, so it could not act as a “lever for Putin”. “This is a lever for the West, because if Vladimir Putin wants to carry future North Stream 2 gas, he will not take the risk of invading Ukraine,” he said.
Since last week, the US government has threatened Russia, accusing it of concentrating its forces again on the Ukrainian border, and imposing tough sanctions if it decides to attack its neighbors. To show that he’s more determined than he was to allow Ukrainian Crimea to annex Moscow to Moscow in 2014, he promises “unprecedented sanctions that will not be used in the past. Precisely because of the impact they will have on Russia.”
– US-German agreement –
Speculation is rife around Washington’s initiative to cut off Russia from Swift, a key player in the global fund that allows banks to keep money in circulation.
But this hypothesis often qualifies as a “nuclear option” that would only be seen as a last resort by the United States in light of the consequences not only for the Russian economy but for the world – no American official has done so. And confirmed it.
“Swift would be a huge expansion,” William Taylor, former US ambassador to Kiev, told AFP, vice president of the United States Institute of Peace Think Tank.
According to him, “Nord Stream 2 is a serious option”, “one of the most important measures”, because it will allow the Biden administration to show a great deal of commitment without going so far as to trigger an economic earthquake.
“NS2” has long poisoned relations between Washington and Berlin.
The United States vehemently opposes this gas pipeline route through the Baltic Sea, threatening to lose a portion of the revenue collected for transportation to Ukraine, but also to put pressure on Moscow.
Despite the opposition of a political class to the plan, no US government has taken the risk of clashing with key ally Germany. And the limited obstacles taken so far have not stopped construction from going to the finish line.
Noting that work is now inevitable, Joe Biden has decided to end the controversy by signing an agreement with the Germans in July, which is now back on the international stage.
The text warned that if Russia committed “aggressive acts against Ukraine,” Germany would take steps to “reduce Russia’s export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector.”
– “Long Term Plan” –
American diplomacy today is based on this compromise, which went largely unnoticed at the time.
“If President Putin moves to Ukraine, we expect the pipeline to be shut down,” said Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s third figure, before a U.S. senator on Tuesday.
For William Taylor, it was a powerful weapon because it was “a long-term plan” for the Kremlin.
“The reason Putin is really interested in it,” he believes, “will allow him to open and close gas valves to Europe,” thus “influencing European decision-making.” So such a threat would “attract his full attention.”
In the American political arena, it also allows the Democratic president to respond to Republicans who have not forgiven him for resigning themselves for the construction of the “pipeline.”
Conservative President Angela Merkel, who has so far been closely associated with Nord Stream 2, will have to see if the US is ready to play the game when it hands over power to Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats.
“The Germans are divided on this,” argues William Taylor, the future foreign minister and environmentalist Annalena Barbach, who is in a line against the gas pipeline.