Adam Schiff, alliances, Atlantic Council, Biden, China, Democrats, Donald Trump, energy, Frederick Kempe, Germany, globalism, impeachment, natural gas, Nord Stream 2, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin
Something weird’s going on with the Biden administration, Ukraine, and Russia, and it could eventually put lots of Democrats in an awfully awkward position.
I’m old enough to remember when helping the eastern European country maintain its independence against Russia’s aggression was considered so important by leading Democrats, along with U.S. foreign policy establishmentarians, that it justified impeaching Donald Trump. For allegedly he illegally slow-walked Congressionally approved military aid to the Ukrainians – allegedly because he wanted to force Ukraine’s government to help him dig up political dirt on then soon-to-be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
As a result, for months, Americans heard again and again how critical Ukraine’s security was to America’s own security, and how Trump’s actions therefore endangered U.S. national security. In the words of lead House impeachment trial manager Adam Schiff (D-California):
“[T]he military aid that we provide, Ukraine helps to protect and advance American national security interests in the region and beyond. America has an abiding interest in stemming Russian expansionism and resisting any nation’s efforts to remake the map of Europe by dent of military force, even as we have tens of thousands of troops stationed there. Moreover, as one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”
Mr. Biden has never gone quite this far in public, either as former President Obama’s vice presidential point man on Ukraine, as presidential candidate, or as chief executive himself. Nonetheless, he continually pressed his former boss to provide more and better weapons to the Ukrainians than Obama was willing to approve, indicating he, too, considered Ukraine’s security closely related to America’s own.
Indeed, last year, his campaign issued a statement declaring that “Ukraine’s success will contribute to a more stable and secure Europe, which is in America’s interest.”
More recently, however, President Biden has been sending out significantly different signals. For example, his statement last month marking the seventh anniversary of Russia’s “illegal invasion of Ukraine,” he pledged to “stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts” and condemned Moscow for violating “international law, the norms by which modern countries engage one another,” but didn’t draw any direct connections between Ukraine’s fate and America’s.
More concretely, Mr. Biden has been looking pretty slow-walking-ly himself on an issue vital to Ukraine’s prosperity: preventing Russia and Germany from completing a natural gas pipeline that would bypass that country, deprive it of billions of dollars worth annually in badly needed revenues from transit fees from existing pipelines across its own territory, heighten its vulnerability to Russian gas blackmail (as candidate Biden noted himself last year), and increase Europe’s energy dependence on Vladimir Putin’s regime to boot. His press secretary has called the Nord Stream 2 project a “bad deal for Europe.” But the project is nearly finished, and his administration isn’t displaying much urgency. As State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters blandly, “we are always looking at pipeline activity that would be sanctionable, so if we see activity that meets that threshold we are prepared to follow the law.”
Not that the administration doesn’t have some good reasons for caution on the Nord Stream 2 project. After all, improving relations with allies like Germany, which were strained by Trump’s “transactional” approach, is a top Biden priority.
Perhaps more important, and revealing, Mr. Biden might be reacting to signs of ever closer ties between Russia and China, since responding to the latter’s rise and increasingly aggressive behavior is also a U.S. priority now. Indeed, just last weekend, leading think tanker Frederick Kempe, whose Atlantic Council sees the world in precisely the kinds of globalist ways as the President, cited growing Sino-Russian cooperation as one reason for America moving away from an indiscriminately anti-Moscow hard line to “a more strategic approach” that would “combine more attractive elements of engagement with more sophisticated forms of containment alongside partners.”
During his first presidential campaign, Trump responded to complaints about his supposedly excessive and even corrupting regard for Russia by asking “If we could get along with Russia, wouldn’t that be a good thing, instead of a bad thing?” and noting possible benefits like defeating ISIS jihadists in the Middle East. No remotely comparable statement has come from the Biden administration, but its deeds on the Ukraine-Russia front are starting to send a similar message. Expect the silence from the Democrats’ ostensible Ukraine hawks and Russia hawks to be deafening.