How Biden is working to save Putin’s pipeline

President Biden’s national security team worked hard this week to defeat a GOP congressional effort to sanction a Russian-German energy project that will strengthen the hand of Russian President Vladimir Putin and weaken Ukraine at the worst possible time. This is only the latest in a series of moves that show how the Biden administration’s actions are actually working to save the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, even though Biden’s officials publicly claim to oppose it.

As early as Wednesday afternoon, the Senate will vote on a bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) that would mandate U.S. sanctions on the company that owns and hopes to soon operate Nord Stream 2 — also known around Capitol Hill as the “the Molotov-Ribbentrop pipeline,” a derogatory reference to the 1939 nonaggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The analogy is imperfect, but it does highlight what’s at stake if the pipeline comes into operation. Germany’s new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is ill-advisedly calling for a “new beginning” with Russia that includes moving forward with the pipeline at the exact moment Putin is poised to re-invade Ukraine.

The Biden team is opposing the bill because it doesn’t want to hand Cruz a win and because it wants to preserve the administration’s diplomatic flexibility. The administration also seems to be prioritizing Germany’s concerns over those of the Ukrainian government, which is warning that if the United States doesn’t act now to stop the pipeline from becoming operational, Russia will gain the ability to bypass Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, removing perhaps the last obstacle to a Russian military invasion. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly asked U.S. senators to vote for the Cruz bill.