It’s no secret that President Joe Biden has an icy relationship with Russia, so it came as a bit of a surprising thaw when he lifted sanctions on one of the country’s major ambitions: the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Vladimir Putin has welcomed the decision, which his spokesman called “definitely a positive signal,” the Washington Examiner reported.
Russia welcomes controversial move
The move was displeasing to Russia hawks and NATO, the Examiner said. Opponents say the project will empower Russia and make countries like Ukraine and Poland more vulnerable. The pipeline is already 95% complete, Axios notes.
Biden is said to have no desire to strain ties with Germany, which desires the pipeline’s completion, but the move has left critics stunned. Democrat Bob Menendez (NJ) fretted that the decision would embolden Russian “aggression” and called on Biden to reverse course.
“I urge the administration to rip off the Band-Aid, lift these waivers, and move forward with the congressionally mandated sanctions,” he said, according to the Examiner.
Republicans have also taken turns bashing Biden’s decision and contrasting it with his controversial move to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline in America. According to the BBC, Jim Risch (R-ID) said Biden offered “a gift to Putin that will only weaken the United States’ leverage in the lead up to the impending Biden-Putin summit.”
To make matters more confusing, Biden is sanctioning some ships building the pipeline, but not the company, Nord Stream 2 AG, building it, as Axios explains.
Biden baffles critics with mixed messages
This isn’t the first time Biden has sent mixed messages to Russia. He started off his tenure by calling Putin a “killer,” and later invited him to meet one-on-one this summer even as he imposed a raft of sanctions.
The pipeline news had some seeing an attempt at rapprochement, especially as top diplomat Tony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart in Iceland Wednesday, the Examiner notes. There, he spoke of Biden’s desire for a “predictable, stable relationship,” according to the BBC.
But some may wonder where the “stability” is on Biden’s end, as Blinken previously vowed to “to do whatever we can to prevent” the pipeline’s completion. He insists that has not changed.
“We will continue to oppose the completion of this project, which would weaken European energy security and that of Ukraine and eastern-flank NATO and EU countries,” he said, according to the Examiner.
Putin hasn’t agreed to Biden’s summit offer, but his spokesman reportedly said he will “make a decision” soon.