McConnell: The Kremlin is not our friend
“For the first time, earlier this month, President Biden traveled to Europe. The primary purpose of his trip was to engage with some of America’s closest friends and allies. But the agenda also included a one-on-one meeting with a staunch adversary, Vladimir Putin.
“The President took office armed with a great deal of tough talk on Russia. He’s called his counterpart a ‘killer’ and a ‘K.G.B. thug’ and warned he would ‘pay a price’ for interference in U.S. elections.
“The world wondered whether this rhetoric would be underpinned by tough action. I certainly hoped it would.
“Back in January, I made it clear that, if the Biden Administration was serious about ‘imposing real costs on Moscow,’ it would ‘find willing partners on Capitol Hill.’ But so far, there have been few encouraging signs for those of us who take Russia’s threats seriously.
“Remember, after less than a week in office, President Biden agreed to Russian requests for a full five-year extension of the New START treaty, no strings attached.
“He gave it up for free, undermining our leverage to extract concessions in future negotiations.
“Then, his Administration rolled out a budget proposal that would cut investment in defense, in real terms – short-changing the modernization we need to keep pace with Russia and China.
“And two weeks ago, the President left for Europe having already given the Kremlin two other gifts: a high-profile summit that experts predicted Putin would use to help legitimize his regime at home and abroad, and a waiver of sanctions on the Russian-owned company behind a lucrative gas pipeline project.
“So, I’ll repeat for President Biden the same warning I offered to the previous administration: The Kremlin is not our friend. And it’s high time our actions started reflecting that.
“Back home, of course, the Biden Administration has proven it knows perfectly well how to crack down on energy pipeline projects when it wants to.
“In fact, on the day he left for Europe, the firm behind the Keystone XL pipeline project announced that the President’s revocation of its construction permit would be fatal, after all.
“What a striking image: The President of the United States heads overseas and meets with a major adversary whom he had just handed a major geopolitical win…
“And the last nail goes in the coffin on the job-killing crusade against reliable North American energy that he made a Day One priority.
“It’s a tale of two pipelines. The decisive rejection of thousands of American jobs at home, and the empowerment of America’s adversaries abroad. And it’s only the latest sign that the Biden Administration’s strategic priorities are out of order.
“Recall, this Administration rushed to rejoin a climate agreement that has failed to hold major signatories to their commitments on reducing emissions, even as the U.S. recorded multiple years of reductions on our own.
“This Administration made it harder to tap our abundant domestic energy, even at the risk of greater reliance on imports from countries with lower environmental standards. And of course, they’ve proposed to squander years of accumulating economic pressure on Iran in exchange for no meaningful concessions on its nuclear ambitions or regional aggression.
“So when President Biden elected to pass on another opportunity to check the influence of a major adversary, we had heard the story before.
“Here in Congress, opposition to the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has been vigorous and bipartisan.
“Last year’s defense authorization, which earned 84 votes here in the Senate, expanded the scope of sanctions against critical entities involved in its construction.
“We’re talking about a project that would give Putin a new artery of influence in Western Europe and rob Ukraine of critical leverage over the way Russian energy currently flows throughout the region.
“But apparently, the Biden Administration’s own opposition to the project was just rhetorical.
“When the chips were down, the President used a waiver to avoid having to place sanctions on the biggest company behind the project and its CEO, a Putin crony.
“According to reports, his decision even overruled the objections of senior diplomats and the concerns of his own Secretary of State.
“Oddly enough, the Administration’s decision to snuff out union jobs in the energy sector here at home didn’t seem to prompt as vigorous an internal debate.
“In fact, President Biden’s executive action to kill Keystone XL has been followed by a steady stream of radical proposals that illustrate just how deep his administration is in thrall to the environmentalist fringe.
“Under the guise of ‘infrastructure,’ they pitched trillions of dollars in federal spending, aligned so closely with the most liberal interests in Congress that the authors of the Green New Deal boasted President Biden’s agenda had their manifesto’s DNA all over it.
“Unprecedented spending on electric vehicles…Huge increases in funds for transit projects that disproportionately benefit blue states on the coasts...And plans to pick winners and losers in the market for affordable, reliable American energy.
“American workers know what a thriving energy sector looks like. It’s exactly what Republicans spent four years working to encourage here at home.
“As a matter of fact, if you hit ‘pause’ on Washington Democrats’ radical climate rhetoric, you’ll notice that smart energy policy isn’t limited by political stripe.
“For years, the liberal government of Canada has recognized pipelines as a safe and efficient way to connect people with affordable and reliable energy and grow what is already the largest sector of U.S.-Canada trade.
“So it was hardly surprising to hear one Canadian official greet President Biden’s decision to sink the Keystone XL pipeline as, quote, ‘an insult’…or to read that the Canadian firm behind the project is now pursuing legal action to recoup its investment.
“Capitulation to our rivals, and painful blows to our neighbors.
“Legitimizing corrupt foreign leaders and jamming hardworking Americans.
“Whatever his motives, and despite his own rhetoric, the consequences of President Biden’s actions are clear.
“It’s not too late to impose real costs on Russia’s pipeline windfall and provide serious, lethal support to Ukraine and other vulnerable states on the front lines of Putin’s aggression.
“It’s not too late to get serious about the defense investment that bipartisan assessments say we need in order to keep pace with Russia and China.
“It’s not too late to recommit to bipartisanship on infrastructure and energy, and show radical climate activists the door. I hope the Biden Administration changes course soon.” ■