Among dozens of the biggest challenges facing the Biden foreign-policy team, Russia appears to be a straightforward one: more sanctions.
Despite Trump’s “getting along with Russia is a good thing” policy towards Russia, the US-Russia relations have plummeted to a post–Cold War nadir.
President Joe Biden is a different type. Biden has under his belt nearly half a century of foreign policy experience with the Soviet Union and Russia.
He calls Putin a “KGB thug”, sees Russia as the biggest threat to America. He well knows the best way to tie Putin’s hands is to hit him where it hurts most: Energy.
Putin has a weaker hand to play, he has alienated Russia in the international space, his energy-reliant economy has been suffering under increasingly tougher sanctions, population decreasing, leverages dwindling.
Over the past years, the US has stepped up economic measures to forestall Russia’s plans to redraw Europe’s energy map. Russia has been trying to reroute its natural gas destined for Europe around Ukraine, Poland and other traditional transit countries.
The almost-complete $11.5 billion, 1,225-km Nord Stream 2 project is seen by the US as a serious geopolitical risk unnecessarily increasing Europe’s reliance on Russia, sidelining traditional transit states of eastern Europe, and enriching Kremlin-controlled Gazprom, at a time when Moscow stands accused of undermining European security and stability.
The US has so far managed to delay the completion of the project.
“Nord Stream 2, if completed, would give Russia the means to completely bypass Ukraine, depriving Ukraine of vital revenues and opening it up to further Russian aggressive actions, while providing the means to use natural resources as a tool of political pressure and malign influence against western Europe,” said outgoing Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in his announcement of new sanctions.
This is a rare area of bipartisan consensus in the US Congress where Moscow hardly has any friends among either Republicans or Democrats.
After coordination with the European Union, the Biden administration is expected to bring a fresh round of sanctions to make the project unfeasible or impossible to complete and operate.
The US has already shown the lengths it is willing to go to in order to prevent Russia’s tightening its grip on Europe as it well knows energy is Russia’s both strongest and weakest point.