It was my pleasure to be with Thierry Bros of Sciences Po University, Paris, and Peter Zalmayev, Ukrainian security analyst and executive director of Eurasian Democracy Initative on David Foster’s Roundtable on TRT World, London, broadcast 9 June 2021.
I discussed Biden’s apparent reasoning for waiving Nord Stream 2 sanctions:
First off, the German government of Angela Merkel simply would not cooperate otherwise. Allowing her pet energy project to go forward was the price she had demanded for trans-Atlantic “unity” before Biden’s summit with Putin.
(Aside: My research in Berlin and elsewhere has convinced me that, at no point from the late-Trump administration through Biden’s six months in office, did the German side actually engage in any meaningful “negotiation” or discussions with the US side to seek to find some compromise or to initiate a moratorium on construction. Not until Biden waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, and decided not to sanction any German firms inolved in construction did Merkel show any real interest in discussions. She emphasized her change of attitude on negotiating with Biden about: “what now are also the necessary commonalities in the relationship with Russia” in comments during a German national broadcast interview immediately following Biden’s sanctions waiver. Until this waiver, she had held up any real discussion of the pressing issues of trans-Atlantic unity-in-general, whcih urgently needed attention.
This, IMHO, again indicates the correctness of my assessment of the depth of the split in US-German relations that has festered since at least the Obama administration. See Nord Stream 2: Berlin-Washington Mutual Intransigence Shows Transatlantic Divide on Russia | My AICGS Analysis October 10, 2020)
Secondly, as the EU and NATO allies all realize, Biden has to have this summit with Putin for a number of reasons. As I indicated on the show, the summit is needed to discuss:
- Putin’s surrounding of Ukraine with still perhaps 80,000 troops,
- getting Putin onboard an Iran nuclear deal (that would allow the USA to further disengage from the Mideast and focus on “Great Power Competition” with Russia and China),
- Moscow’s role in Syria and Libya, between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and elsewhere
- cybersecurity issues following numerous attacks on US and allied targets and interference in elections,
- nuclear weapons treaty,
- and much more.
Meanwhile, it was not only the German allies who were being uncooperative – effectively holding relations hostage to their Nord Stream 2 priorities – but the Russian side also made it clear that serious new sanctions on Nord Stream 2 would mean no summit.
So, not only will the US-Russia summit go forward, Merkel has also agreed to go to Washington on 15 July, to meet Biden after the G7 and Nato meetings and the Biden-Putin Summit. She and her foreign minister Mass, have explained that they want to offer some compensation to make up for the damage her government’s dogged paratnership with Moscow’s Nord Stream 2 project has caused Ukraine in terms of security and funds. Of course, as US Secretary of State has repeatedly promised to the Central and Eastern European states, including Ukraine, “nothing about you without you” – meaning they must be consulted on any such German offers of compensation.
But, if the G7 outcome is any indication, this will likely not go so well for Merkel et al. At G7, Biden did not back down on the tariffs imposed on the EU steel and aluminum, and apparently did not relent on the long-time US insistance for Germany and the EU to do much more to defend Europe against the threats and transgressions of Putin’s Moscow. However, an even stronger insistance was that Germany and Brussels participate in countering Chinas increasingly agressive behavior in the South China Sea and otherwise.
One general comment here: it seems to me it will be some weeks after the Biden-Putin summit before it becomes clear what is the particular direction Biden-Blinkin will persue vis-a-vis Russia, Germany (and Europe in general), and in its support for Ukraine. The detail will soon fall into place.