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Biden's flailing Europe policy

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 10/10/2021 Washington Examiner
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In his inaugural address, President Joe Biden pledged to "be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security."

In Europe, those words now sound like satire.

Biden is not delivering for America in Europe. In recent weeks, he has publicly insulted our closest ally, arrogantly ignored our oldest ally, and seemingly abandoned our most threatened allies. Consider what's happening at this very moment.

Our European allies are suffering skyrocketing energy prices as the global economy rebounds and a cold winter beckons. Russia sits in an ideal position to ramp up the production of natural gas and increase supplies into Europe. Such action would reduce costs and assure that the poorest Europeans don't go cold.

Unfortunately, Russian President Vladimir Putin has no interest in providing relief. Spreading the fiction that his Gazprom energy giant is near its maximum production levels, Putin insists it has few means to help. What the Russian leader is really doing is leveraging the immediate approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as the price tag for supply boosts. Putin wants Europe to understand that it must bow to his various whims or suffer his icy riposte.

But as the Baltics, Poland, Britain, France, and nearly every ally in Europe faces Putin's energy coercion, Biden sits quiet.

What can he say? He is the engineer of their suffering. The president killed off the Keystone XL pipeline, which could have transported crude oil down to the Gulf of Mexico and then on to Europe. Biden thus jeopardized not just U.S. energy security, but he also wasted an opportunity to boost the energy security of important allies.

Then, in a shocking reversal of bipartisan action from the Trump administration and Congress, Biden approved Putin's Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline into Europe. At the request of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Biden waived congressional sanctions and allowed the pipeline's completion. The Biden administration claimed that because the pipeline was 90% complete, the sanctions would only have aggravated Germany.

It was a lie. The sanctions had deadlocked Nord Stream 2's completion as pipe laying, compliance verification, and other companies halted operations. Had Biden kept enforcing former President Donald Trump's sanctions, Nord Stream 2 and Putin's ability to secure a new generation of energy blackmail against Europe would have died.

But President Joe "I'll get tough on Russia" Biden instead decided to do Putin's bidding. The icy cold ramifications of this failure offer a useful metaphor for Biden's other policy actions in Europe.

All our European allies were disgusted by the Biden administration's incompetent evacuation from Afghanistan. Expecting at least a dialogue on the method and timetable for the withdrawal from Kabul's airport, the allies received only days of silence. They wanted to extend the withdrawal deadline. Instead, Biden put the Taliban's wishes first. Like those poor Afghans desperate to escape the coming Taliban hell, Biden's credibility flew off the wings of departing aircraft.

Or contemplate Biden's treatment of our closest ally. On a recent visit to Washington, Prime Minister Boris Johnson begged for action toward a United States-United Kingdom trade deal. But what was a priority for the Trump administration, Biden has now relegated. During the two leaders' Oval Office meeting, Biden was asked by a reporter whether Britain remained, as President Barack Obama had warned, "at the back of the queue" for a trade deal. Biden accepted as much, ignoring the specific question by saying that any deal would have to be "worked through." Adding to the ignominy, Johnson was then interrupted by the White House press team as he sought to answer a journalist's question. So much for the special relationship.

What of France?

The U.S., Britain, and Australia recently agreed on a landmark "AUKUS" deal to supply the latter with nuclear submarine technology. The partnership replaced a contract for France to build submarines for Australia. We support AUKUS, recognizing its value in deterring China's imperial claims in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. What we cannot understand, however, is why Biden did not think it appropriate to give France more advanced notice of the new deal. It meant the loss of tens of billions of dollars for France's economy and thousands of jobs. Biden's failure to offer the most basic of warnings thus sparked French President Emmanuel Macron's fury. France temporarily withdrew its ambassador and now threatens to scale back its cooperation against China. Making matters worse, climate czar and former Secretary of State John Kerry last week told the French media that Biden had been unaware Macron was upset. Sacre bleu!

How about Biden's stance on Ukraine?

Facing a mix of overt and covert Russian offensives, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has spent most of 2021 begging Biden for increased U.S. support. Aside from his rhetoric on the importance of defending democracy, Biden's response hasn't been stellar. Indeed, Biden even took eight months to allow Zelensky a White House visit. Biden also canceled U.S. Navy transits through the Black Sea, in appeasement of Russia.

Returning to that Russia-related security count, Biden has presided over another failure in Europe, one that illuminates the mirage of his claim to stand for strong alliances and getting a good deal for taxpayers: The president has failed to push allies to reach the NATO minimum spending target of 2% of GDP on defense.

Apparently forgetting Biden's Nord Stream 2 gift, Germany continues to spend just 1.3% of its GDP on defense. This figure is likely to fall further in the coming years as a new left-wing government takes office in Berlin. The ramifications are vast. Not only did Biden throw a bomb at NATO's credibility with his Afghanistan debacle, he now sits content as the alliance rots. What does the president think this will mean for the future? What will happen, for example, if Trump reenters power and again points to the continuing absurdity of rich European nations relying on Uncle Sam to carry the weight of their defense? Answer: The world's most successful alliance may well die.

Talk is cheap. When it comes to U.S. alliance interests in Europe, Biden is full of hot air.

 

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Tags: Editorials, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, Europe, Foreign Policy, Russia

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