Biden commits ‘cascade of errors’ ahead of Putin meeting, Polish official warns

Jun 14, 2021
Biden commits 'cascade of errors' ahead of Putin meeting, Polish official warns

President Joe Biden’s team has committed “a cascade of errors” in the lead-up to his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the top Polish diplomat, who complained that Warsaw only learned “from the media” that the U.S. would waive sanctions on a major Russian pipeline project.

“Our American allies did not find time to consult with the region most exposed to the consequences of that decision,” Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Friday.

Rau was critical of Biden’s relationship with Central and Eastern European allies, just as the new administration hopes to make a show of transatlantic unity following former President Donald Trump’s tempestuous tenure on Biden’s first trip abroad. Yet, the Putin encounter looming at the end of that diplomatic tour casts a shadow over the alliance, as Biden’s outreach to the western European capitals that clashed most with Trump involves policy concessions that alarm the allies who endured the tyranny of the Soviet Union.

“American-Russian-German dialogue is no substitute for consultations between America and its allies on NATO’s eastern flank, who will be particularly affected by these decisions,” Rau told Rzeczpospolita, a Polish media outlet. “It is easier for the Americans to talk to the Germans and the French, who won’t ask awkward questions and are willing to give the Americans the nod on Russia.”

PUTIN WELCOMES US CONCESSION ON NORD STREAM 2 SANCTIONS

Biden’s team has described his meeting with Putin as an attempt to place U.S.-Russia relations on a more “stable and predictable” footing. Rau made clear he has low expectations for the meeting but acknowledged Biden was right to make the effort.

“Putin is no Gorbachev, and Biden is certainly no Reagan,” he said archly.

“Diplomacy strives to nurture even the very remote possibility that one day Russia will become a member of the international community seeking to preserve peace and pursuing peaceful policies to this end,” the foreign minister said. “We should always look for ways of encouraging Russia, even under Vladimir Putin’s rule, to adopt such policies.”

Rau’s public airing of grievances could put a negative charge into the relationship already fraught with political tensions. Freedom House, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., identified Poland as one of the worst examples of “democratic backsliding in Europe,” faulting Warsaw in particular for “cracking down on judicial autonomy, independent media and the civic sector.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has requested a $2.8 billion budget to counter such developments.

“For example, through technical training for elections and support for independent media and civil society,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week. Biden hopes an “alliance of democracies” will hold the key to countering the threats emanating from a rising Chinese Communist regime.

Polish President Andrzej Duda also hesitated to congratulate Biden for winning the 2020 presidential election even after the U.S. General Services Administration initiated the transition, citing Trump’s unsubstantiated election challenges. Yet, Rau suggested Biden was punishing Poland for close cooperation with Trump’s administration on policy issues before the election.

“What mistakes were made by other American allies on NATO’s eastern flank that would justify Washington’s prioritizing communication with its adversaries over talks with its allies?” he said. “We are facing policymaking based on false premises that stem from a condemnation and rejection of policies conducted by the previous administration.”

Biden administration officials opted to waive sanctions Russian hawks hoped would thwart the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, despite widespread agreement the pipeline is part of a Kremlin scheme to tighten energy links with Germany at the expense of Ukraine. Blinken emphasized, by way of explanation, the pipeline is already close to completion, so the sanctions would not have killed the project.

“The physical completion of the pipeline was, I think, a fait accompli,” Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 7. “So, the worst of all worlds is a pipeline that’s completed, which we continue to believe is a fundamentally bad idea, a poisoned well with one of our closest partners, Germany … and no incentives for Germany to actually work with us to mitigate and correct some of the damage that this is likely to do.”

U.S. and German officials are negotiating how to ensure Ukraine doesn’t suffer financially if Russia stops sending gas through the current route across its territory. They are also discussing what to do if Putin uses the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to deprive Ukraine of energy resources at critical times without disrupting the delivery of gas to Germany.

Blinken’s counterpart in Warsaw alleged many of the U.S.-Germany discussions had been conducted in secret.

“When rumors appeared about confidential U.S.-German talks on NS2, we heard reassurances that no such discussions were taking place,” he said before implying that U.S. officials lied to his government. “We took note of these statements despite the fact that they contradicted what we knew from other sources.”

That lack of coordination extends to other areas, according to Rau, who said the American team has “not found time to arrange a meeting with their eastern flank allies.” He also criticized Biden for scheduling a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after his summit with Putin.

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“The proper sequence should be the reverse and result from a well-considered policy, not a mere face-saving operation,” he said. “So here we have yet another mistake. In fact, we are dealing with a cascade of errors. All of which could have been avoided if consultations with allies had been taken seriously.”

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Tags: News, Foreign Policy, National Security, Poland, Russia, Joe Biden, NATO, Ukraine

Original Author: Joel Gehrke

Original Location: Biden commits ‘cascade of errors’ ahead of Putin meeting, Polish official warns

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