With all the breaking news this week, Biden’s move to cancel sanctions against the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline barely made a blip in the media. There was plenty of hand ringing over concerns that this is a sign Biden may be doing a “reset” with Russia, by the left, and by the right (sigh). It’s worth noting that Obama’s attempted reset didn’t work out well for anyone except Russia. Putin brazenly invaded Ukraine which Russia continues to occupy since the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and two years after that, Russia interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections effectively installing a suspected Russian asset to the U.S. presidency.
Granted, despite Obama’s reset, he signed the Magnitsky Act into law in 2013, under pressure from both parties, thanks Bill Browder’s tireless efforts to impose sanctions against criminal Russian oligarchs. But, even after the shocking results of the 2016 elections, Obama went silent about Russian interference, and Hillary Clinton conceded almost immediately, despite strong evidence and grounds for disputing the results. Even Mitt Romney who, during his 2012 presidential run, said Russia was America’s greatest geopolitical foe remained mostly silent during Trump’s term.
Ongoing lenience with Russia is baffling and needs to be addressed. As I summarized in my April 7, 2021 piece, Ukraine is crucial to Russian dominance following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Yet, during Putin’s invasion of Crimea, the U.S. looked the other way, despite the promise to defend Ukraine from foreign attacks under the same protections given to Japan and Germany since 1945. Much of the world tends to shrug off this Russian aggression under the mistaken belief that Ukraine used to be a Russian territory, and that Russia existed before Ukraine, when the opposite is true. Putin is given free rein to subjugate Ukraine, resume drilling in the Arctic, and other abuses of power.
So, the question remains, is Biden really doing a “reset” with Russia? Probably not. Although, as Vice President, Biden famously called for a reset with Russia, he has long since lost any illusions that Putin would be an ally. Biden has been against the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline from the beginning, but the project is too far along to impose direct sanctions now and it is more important to restore relations with Germany which were greatly damaged under Trump.
Instead, it appears that Biden is looking to impose sanctions on two Russian ships involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s construction that have ties with shadowy shell companies. There are no magic wands, so instead of rushing to the conclusion that Biden is giving in to Putin, it’s far more likely that he’s looking to make a very intriguing and savvy move.