Energy is used by Russia as a political weapon to gouge, dissuade, and suppress countries and populations from their own aspirations. With Nord Stream 2, that will include much of Europe.

by Debra Cagan and Andras Simonyi

U.S. – Ukraine Foundation

The Biden administration is understandably attempting to repair what it perceives as damage done to relationships with some of America’s closest European allies. But there is a cost, often substantial, to pleasing one’s allies when there is no clarity of reciprocity. New rumored arrangements to protect Germany and others in the EU from U.S. sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline will be pocketed by those governments which now will be even more convinced that doing business with Russia—and for that matter, China, the EU’s latest go-at-it-alone venture—will have no negative impact on their relations with the United States. There is only one victor of this arrangement designed to sanitize Nord Stream 2: Vladimir Putin. The loser, transatlantic relations.

The supposition behind all of these attempts to “fix” this relationship is that the Biden administration must issue a huge mea culpa for the recent mistakes and insults to Germany, and backing off of sanctions would sound just the right note. They are unfortunately buttressed in their view by those within the United States who believe Germany, and by extension Russia, merits if not an apology then a pass under the guise of alliance relations. But the U.S. relationship with Germany is stronger than a disagreement over a single issue. Sanctions are not, nor should they be, viewed as an irreparable point of contention.

While alliance unity is often important, allies are never going to agree on everything. Democracies debate, argue, and make decisions on what is best for one’s own national security and economic interests and sometimes those decisions do not comport with one’s allies. And that is the way it should be. It would be foolhardy to suggest that countries only have policies that are designed not to hurt the feelings of their allies. No democracy operates this way.

What is truly naïve is the wishful thinking on the part of the Europeans who after repeatedly getting embarrassed and harassed by Moscow still believe an energy deal with Russia makes sense. There are many in Germany, and certainly a number of EU countries, who remain vociferous opponents to the pipeline. The opponents are clear-eyed about the long-lasting political damage Nord Stream 2 will cause between Western and Central European members of the EU, and between the United States and the EU. Recently, a prominent member of the European Parliament from Central Europe pleaded for the United States to keep the sanctions intact.