Much has been written recently regarding the decision by U.S. President Joe Biden to waive critical sanctions tied to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The Biden administration did sanction several companies and ships that have continued to work on the project, but it decided to waive sanctions on the main company behind the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, and the company’s chief operating officer, Matthias Warnig. In making the decision to waive sanctions against those two entities, the Biden administration cited national security interests. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the move was “in line with our commitments to strengthen our Transatlantic relationships as a matter of national security.” Berlin and the Kremlin hailed the news. That alone is telling.
The response from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers was quick. In a joint statement released on May 20, the co-chairs of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus called NS2 “a bad deal for Europe” and a “Russian malign influence project.” More importantly, the authors of the joint statement – Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) – said that U.S. relations with its close ally Germany “cannot be at the expense of transatlantic and Ukrainian security.” Their statement also called Nord Stream 2 AG CEO Matthias Warnig “a Putin crony and a former Stasi goon.”
Foreign policy experts have speculated that Mr. Biden needed to make the move to curry favor with Germany before a crucial June 14 NATO meeting in Brussels. They argue that in return for easing off on NS2 sanctions, Mr. Biden’s administration would ultimately push for Ukraine’s full membership in NATO. However, this argument seems bruised by the recent news that Ukraine was not invited to the upcoming NATO summit. As Ukraine has taken strides to combat corruption, it has begun to push the issue of eventual NATO membership more vocally and forcefully.
“We understand the desire of our allies to hold a closed summit,” Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on May 26. “But we do not understand how it is possible not to invite Ukraine.” Mr. Kuleba, standing next to Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Helga Schmid, said Ukraine was grateful to NATO for its “constant confirmation of the open-door policy” to join the bloc, but he added that not a single step had been taken since a 2008 summit in Bucharest in which NATO said Ukraine could eventually become a member.
“When we in Ukraine are accused of too slow reforms, what can we say about the adoption and implementation of the decisions of the alliance, which have been covered with dust for 13 years?” Mr. Kuleba said.
We share Mr. Kuleba’s frustration, and we, too, are incredibly disappointed by Mr. Biden’s decision to waive sanctions on NS2. Actions speak louder than words. While much has been said regarding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and its path to NATO membership, the actions of both the Biden administration and Ukraine’s European allies paint a different picture. How many more Ukrainians must die defending Europe’s eastern flank from Russian aggression before Europe and the U.S. learn and appreciate what they have in Ukraine? As we wait for an answer, a war rages on and Ukraine defends the continent.