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Why Joe Biden has been forced to accept Russia and Germany’s energy relationship

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In May this year, the Biden administration rescinded the 2019 sanctions the US Congress had placed on Nord Stream 2 – a second pipeline under the Baltic Sea that takes gas from Russia to Germany. This is a significant reversal. During his confirmation hearings in January, Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, insisted he was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent [its] completion”.

The dependency of many European countries on Russian gas and oil exports has long troubled American presidents. But the German decision in 2005 to collaborate with Moscow on the first Nord Stream pipeline exacerbated Washington’s frustrations. Once the pipeline was completed, Russian gas could flow into Germany without transiting through Ukraine. For Kiev, which sees transit services as a matter of its security, this was a disaster. Poland, fearing any kind of geostrategic manoeuvring that weakens the states between it and Russia, was also incredulous – the then Polish defence minister, Radek Sikorski, compared Nord Stream 2 to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 that carved up Poland, including parts of present-day Ukraine. Insensitive to these geopolitical considerations, Angela Merkel doubled down during her third term by committing Germany to Nord Stream 2. Now, the Biden administration has decided confrontation with Berlin is a luxury it cannot afford, even though, just weeks before the decision to rescind sanctions, Russian troops had amassed on Ukraine’s border.

For Biden, this is world where almost every decision must be oriented towards strategic competition with China, and the place of German-Russian relations at the heart........

© New Statesman

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