Over the weekend, an airplane operated by an Irish airline was hijacked over Belarus by four men who claimed a bomb was onboard, and a Belarussian fighter jet “escorted” the flight to Minsk. When the plane landed, a dissident journalist, Raman Pratasevich, was removed from and taken into custody by the authorities.
In a statement condemning the hijacking and kidnapping on Monday night, President Biden said that he welcomes “the news that the European Union has called for targeted economic sanctions and other measures, and have asked my team to develop appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible, in close coordination with the European Union, other allies and partners, and international organizations.”
Some GOP senators have a clear idea of what one of those “appropriate options” would be: U.S. sanctions that would halt the the Nord Stream 2 oil pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany.
“Belarus’s aerial piracy and possible Russian involvement demand a swift and strong response from NATO and the EU,” Arkansas GOP senator Tom Cotton said in a statement. “That response should start with ending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, Russia’s attempt to gain further coercive leverage over Europe.”
“If President Biden wants ‘appropriate options to hold accountable those responsible,’ his administration needs to tighten the screws on Vladimir Putin,” Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse said in a statement. “Like every puppet leader, Lukashenko doesn’t use the bathroom without asking for Moscow’s permission. It’s fanciful to imagine he’d hijack a flight between NATO allies without Moscow’s blessing. Putin’s regime is emboldened because the U.S. dropped our sanctions against his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We should impose those sanctions tonight.”
For more on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, see National Review’s recent editorial:
The pipeline, which is about 95 percent complete and runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, circumventing routes that run through Ukraine, can now only be stopped by U.S. sanctions penalizing firms involved in its construction. The tricky part is that many of these entities are German and Swiss, hence the German government’s self-interested opposition to the sanctions, which now seems to be dictating U.S. policy . . .
Like Ukraine, Poland and other countries in the region are threatened by Russia’s tightening grip on their allies’ energy supply. In the past, Moscow has demonstrated no hesitation to turn off the spigot when it needs to get what it wants, but Berlin, driven by the importance of “securing” energy supplies for its industries (something imperiled by Merkel’s misguided turn away from nuclear to renewables) and by a lingering attachment to neo-neutralism, seems content to ignore the obvious opportunity for blackmail that Nord Stream 2 will represent.
Where the Trump administration raised hell, however, the Biden administration has toned down the American campaign against Vladimir Putin’s energy ambitions in order to avoid irritating Germany, a country that it sees as a vital strategic partner.
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