Ukraine's President Says Biden Handed Putin a 'Weapon' By Caving On Pipeline

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky / Getty Images
June 7, 2021

Ukraine's president accused the Biden administration of handing a "weapon" to the Kremlin by allowing the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which Russian president Vladimir Putin hopes to use to build influence in Europe.

"This is a weapon, a real weapon … in the hands of the Russian Federation," Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with Axios that aired Sunday. "It is not very understandable ... that the bullets to this weapon can possibly be provided by such a great country as the United States."

Zelensky told Axios that he learned through press reports last month that Biden had decided to waive sanctions against European companies helping build the pipeline. He said that Biden had previously given him indications that he would not allow the completion of the pipeline, which will transport gas directly from Russia to Germany.

U.S. and Ukrainian officials are concerned that Nord Stream 2, which is owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, will give Putin more leverage over Ukraine and other Eastern European countries that the pipeline bypasses. Biden's decision conflicts with his past claims to adamantly support Ukraine and oppose Putin. As vice president, Biden served as the Obama administration's chief liaison to Ukraine following the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, its pro-Russia leader.

Zelensky said that the United States is the only nation that can stop the completion of the 764-mile pipeline. While the Biden administration has called the pipeline a "Kremlin geopolitical project," it opposes sanctions out of concerns about harming the U.S.-German relationship. German officials largely support the pipeline because it will transport relatively cheap gas to Germany.

"How many Ukrainian lives does the relationship between the United States and Germany cost?" asked Zelensky.

Congress passed bipartisan legislation in 2019 and 2020 that called for sanctions against European companies that help build the pipeline. But many of the companies have mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign in the United States and Europe in recent years.

Nord Stream 2 AG, which is based in Switzerland, has shelled out millions of dollars in the United States to lobby against sanctions on the pipeline. Five European companies that have loaned billions to Nord Stream 2 AG paid two Atlantic Council scholars nearly $3 million since 2017 to lobby in favor of the pipeline.