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Scoop: Allies worried Biden shaky on Putin’s pipeline

Russia’s adversaries in central and Eastern Europe are worried President Biden isn’t willing to fight hard to stop the Russia-Germany gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 — one of Vladimir Putin’s core priorities.

Why it matters: The fight is the first significant test of whether Biden’s tough rhetoric against the Russian leader will be matched by action. Russian opponents fear Biden doesn’t want to antagonize Angela Merkel and won’t inflict serious costs on the Germans.

The big picture: The completion of Nord Stream 2 would be a huge geopolitical win for Putin and give him substantial new leverage in Europe. Russia has cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine as retribution in disputes.
• Bypassing Ukraine with a direct pipeline to Germany helps Russia advance its goal of isolating its former client state, now a struggling democracy, from Western Europe.
• Russian gas currently has to pass through Ukraine on its way to Europe.
• The pipeline is more than 90% complete and could be finished by the summer without a major intervention to stop it.

Driving the news: Until now, messages of concern have been conveyed to the Americans privately. But on Monday, a source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Axios: “The Ukrainians are a bit disappointed that President Biden did not commit during the Munich [Security] Conference to use every tool in his power to stop Nord Stream 2.”
• “But it is not too late,” the source close to Zelensky added, “for the U.S. to take decisive action, and the Ukrainians are hopeful the Biden administration will do so.” Read from source….