krauss54_Steffen Kugler-Bundesregierung-Pool via Getty Images_bidenmerkel Steffen Kugler/Bundesregierung/Pool via Getty Images

Biden’s Great Game

Considered in isolation, some of the Biden administration's recent decisions on sanctions and transatlantic diplomacy may seem overly accommodating. But looming over everything – including Biden's upcoming European tour – is the pursuit of a united Western policy to deal with an increasingly aggressive China.

STANFORD – Joe Biden is about to embark on his first trip to Europe as US president. After a G7 summit in England, he will attend an EU-US summit and a NATO summit in Belgium and then a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva. But while Europe will serve as the locale, the focus ultimately will be on China, because Biden’s strategic priority is to marshal a united Western response to Chinese behavior.

China’s increasing assertiveness and contempt for Europe has soured many European leaders’ views on President Xi Jinping’s regime, creating an opportunity that Biden dare not miss. Strange as it may sound, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Germany to Russia is now at the center of Biden’s efforts to woo Europe – particularly Germany – away from China.

For years, Biden derided Nord Stream 2 as a “bad deal for Europe,” arguing that it jeopardized the continent’s security, and particularly that of Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. At his confirmation hearings in January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the incoming administration was “determined to do whatever we can to prevent” the pipeline’s completion.

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