The Nord Stream 2 public gas pipeline is designed to pump gas from Russia to Germany without having to transit through Poland or Ukraine. While Nord Stream 2 was completed in 2021, final certification from the German government is required before it can begin operation. From Moscow’s perspective, bypassing two countries with which it has strained relations makes the system safer. However, from the United States’ perspective, making Germany and the European Union even more dependent on Russian energy weakens NATO’s resolve and undermines its ability to deter or respond to a Russian invasion of the United States. ‘Ukraine.
On January 13, the US Senate voted 55 to 44 in favor of the Protecting Europe Energy Security Implementation Act. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), would require “the imposition of penalties on entities responsible for planning, constructing, or operating the Nord Stream pipeline. 2”. Although Cruz’s bill received majority support in the Senate, it failed to pass because it lacked the sixty votes needed to overcome a filibuster backed by the Democratic leadership and the Biden administration.
In 2019, Congress and the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the pipeline that temporarily halted its construction. Despite the success of sanctions won in 2019, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has aggressively opposed recent efforts by Cruz to extend sanctions on Nord Stream 2, arguing that the threat of sanctions is necessary to deter Russia. “[Russian president Vladimir] Putin wants to see Nord Stream 2,” Menendez said. “If somehow he gets killed before any potential invasion, he has one less reason not to invade Ukraine.” , which, according to him, would impose “the mother of all sanctions” on Russia. By including sanctions on Russia’s finances, exports and “extractive industries” in the bill, Menendez seems willing to take action against the The bill, however, has yet to be scheduled for a vote and is still being drafted in concert with a bipartisan Senate group that wants to impress on Moscow that US leaders are united in opposing their aggression. .
The Biden administration has also reportedly crafted sanctions that are ready to go “when [Russian] the tanks cross the border. An administration official added that while the details of any sanctions package would depend on what actions Russia takes, they “have concrete actions that we are ready to press the back button on.” While President Joe Biden himself has threatened major sanctions against Moscow and expressed opposition to Nord Stream 2, he has recently questioned the deterrent power of sanctions. During his Jan. 19 press conference, Biden said he thinks Russia “is going to step in” because Putin “has to do something.” Biden then further undermined deterrence, saying, “I think what you’re going to see is Russia will be held accountable if they invade, and it depends on what they do. this is a minor incursion and one that we end up having to fight [within NATO] on what to do and what not to do.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki immediately tried to walk back Biden’s remarks. In a statement released shortly after the press conference, Psaki claimed that “President Biden also knows from his long experience that the Russians have a vast playbook of aggression short of military action…and he affirmed today that these Russian acts of aggression would be met with a decisive, reciprocal and united response. The term “reciprocal” seemed to imply that Russia would retain the initiative and need not worry about NATO escalating beyond Moscow’s expectations.
The key to NATO unity will be Germany’s response. A major argument against Senator Cruz’s bill was that because of Germany’s reliance on Russian gas, it might drop out of NATO. Despite this argument, reports indicate that Berlin told Moscow that the pipeline would not be certified if Russia invaded Ukraine. In July, Germany agreed to “take measures…to limit Russian export capabilities to Europe in the energy sector…designed to ensure that Russia will not use any pipelines, including Nord Stream 2, for aggressive political purposes using energy as a weapon.” But that was easier to say before the prospect became real.
Ambiguity is not a strong deterrent. Would the Biden or Menendez administration impose sanctions on the pipeline if Germany objects? Putin recalls President Barack Obama’s assertion that the annexation of Crimea “wouldn’t hold” because of the sanctions. But today, no one expects a Russian withdrawal from such a strategic territory just to lift annoying sanctions.
Two crucial issues need to be addressed in the sanctions debate. First, are the sanctions intended to deter and punish Russia, or will they be used as part of a larger strategy to change the overall balance of power? During the Cold War, economic relations and sanctions were part of larger US calculations. And in the long run, it was the massive economic capabilities of the Western alliance that won the contest without it escalating into direct conflict. The many advantages offered by economic superiority, including not only advanced technology and industrial capacity, but also a secure base of energy and resources, are what create real deterrence. Moscow must not feel that it can win future confrontations by threatening the European economy and dividing NATO. Rather than just being a pawn in a crisis, shutting down the Nord Stream system is necessary for long-term security. Even if there is no invasion this time, the goal remains to reduce Russian influence in Europe and limit the economic advantages that Moscow can use to support its aggressive policies. Trade decoupling is a strategic decision, not just a diplomatic ploy. Sanctions may not persuade a determined adversary to change course, but they may make it more difficult for him to mobilize the means necessary to achieve his objectives.
The second issue that needs to be addressed is the ideology that led Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to break with the rest of his party during the recent vote on Cruz’s bill. Although it does not seem to play a big role in the current crisis, this ideology has been a recurring challenge that has caused considerable damage in the past. In a column for American Conservative, the libertarian lawmaker waved the old banner of classic liberalism as if it were 1822 rather than 2022. He spoke out against sanctions of all kinds, even embracing the conspiracy theory that the U.S. oil embargo on Japan would have triggered the attack on Pearl Harbor. He did not mention Tokyo’s aggression in China, which triggered the sanctions, or the long-standing belligerence and naval buildup that strained US-Japan relations for decades. The United States has no obligation to provide a foreign regime with the means to pursue policies contrary to American interests.
Paul argued that “history demonstrates that trade and interconnectedness between nations is an obstacle to war”. This ideology led to some of the most absurd statements ever made on foreign affairs when it was first presented as an alternative to what happened during the Napoleonic Wars. Thomas Paine, for example, said that since “man is not the enemy of man”, all warships should be converted into freighters in order to promote trade (a flawed ideology on which I However, in a sense, Moscow is hoping that Nord Stream will make war less likely, but appeasement driven by economic concerns is not peace.
Paul goes beyond ideology with his accusation that opposition to Nord Stream 2 is “only superficially a matter of national security” and is in fact driven by “states competing in the sale of natural gas”. Paul missed a major strategic point by taking the low road. As long as Europe needs to import energy, Europe’s source of supply will always be a critical national security issue. The Biden administration is trying to find substitute gas supplies for Germany from international and US producers.
The true story of commerce aligns with security alliances. Joanne S. Gowa, the former William P. Boswell Professor of Global Politics of Peace and War at Princeton, has made it her theme in Allies, adversaries and international trade. She demonstrated how “power politics is an inexorable part of any deal to open up international markets, because of the security externalities that trade produces…trade enhances the potential military power of any country that enters it. engage”. Trading with an ally makes both sides stronger, while trading with an enemy creates a “security diseconomy” that strengthens the enemy. The classical liberals were wrong. The economy must align with and support security, not fight or undermine it. This fundamental fact should inform how the United States approaches Nord Stream 2 and European energy security as a whole.
William R. Hawkins is president of the Hamilton Center for National Strategy. A former professor of economics, he has written extensively on defense and foreign policy issues for various scholarly and popular publications. He also served on the staff of the United States House Foreign Affairs Committee.