Biden's Russia credentials questioned over European pipeline

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on foreign policy at the State Department, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Washington.  (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on foreign policy at the State Department, Wednesday, March 3, 2021 in Washington. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON – After years of Democratic accusations that former President Donald Trump was too soft on Russia, the Biden administration is facing Republican criticism of its approach to Moscow.

In particular, Republicans accuse him of not doing enough to halt a gas pipeline to Europe that many believe will give Russia a tool for political influence over energy-dependent Central and East European nations. To make their point, they’ve delayed confirmation of some of Biden’s top national security nominees, including for the CIA and top spots at the State Department.

And, they’re planning to grill Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the matter when he testifies before Congress on Wednesday.

The Biden administration rejects the criticism, saying it has been clear about penalties for companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and that its goal is to bolster European energy security.

The administration also is weighing punitive measures against Russia for the SolarWinds hacking campaign, in which at least nine federal agencies and 100 private companies were breached, and has imposed sanctions on some Russians over the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

Biden's critics, though, say the Navalny sanctions are largely redundant measures. And, they have become increasingly vocal over his response to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which has not yet included any steps beyond what the Trump administration took in its waning months in office.

“We are deeply concerned that the administration’s strong statements in opposition to the pipeline are not being matched by equally strong actions," four senior Republican congressmen said in a letter to Blinken on Monday. The letter was signed by the top GOP member of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, and the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas.

On the Senate side, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have all weighed in with similar concerns.