It’s very possible that Ukraine, figuratively speaking, will have to throw in the towel.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has governed his nation in both a political and economic vacuum, and it is only a matter of time before our northeastern neighbor enters a state of being completely vulnerable internationally. Following the agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, then bringing the EU visa waiver for Ukrainians to life, the Ukrainian president embraced dreams of moving further down the road toward Euro-Atlantic integration. Not only was he aiming for EU membership, but also to join NATO.
For some time now, the thinking of Kyiv leaders has been dominated by a false myth of being indispensable in the game of international superpowers. Yet, if they had thought about it just a little, it becomes pretty clear that after the Turkish Balkan Stream gas pipeline reaches the Hungarian border, most likely through Serbia, by the end of the year, the Russian gas coming from the south will bypass Ukraine, arriving in the EU. Furthermore, the already operational first Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia again bypasses Ukraine when transporting energy to communities.
In Kyiv, they were hoping that President Joe Biden, believing his European NATO partners would be more vulnerable to Moscow, would block the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline’s last 14-kilometer section (approximately eight miles). This would have left Kyiv with a trump card, since a part of the Ukrainian transit line would remain in use.
Biden originally supported U.S. sanctions on the previous contractor and CEO of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Now, however, considering Germany’s interest above all, Biden has lifted the sanctions.
President Vladimir Putin has not only won a huge diplomatic victory, but also a geostrategic one. The Russian president has worked for a decade and a half to switch from the Soviet-era natural gas infrastructure laid through Ukraine to a network that completely eliminates the use of gas pipelines through the territory of the former Soviet republic. In this regard, though, the Kremlin may decide not to sell more gas to Kyiv, or only at a higher price, and Ukraine cannot do anything about it. It has to accept Russian conditions if it wants access to energy supplies.
Ukraine will lose its potential for blackmail since it will not have an opportunity to block or tap into Russian gas supplies going to the West. Kyiv’s fate is sealed because the transit fees are gone, which is a huge blow to the already crumbling Ukrainian economy.
The crucial element of the story is that Biden assured Zelenskiy of his full support not so long ago. The sudden lifting of U.S. sanctions is a blow to the overconfident Ukrainian president, who greatly overplayed America’s promises. He was hoping that he could involve NATO and the United States in his conflict with Moscow, and even hoped for military protection.
In Washington, however, a pragmatic policy has emerged. The economic interests of its European NATO partners and stabilizing tensions at a lower level with Moscow overrode the “worry” about Ukraine’s fate. Putin and Biden will meet in Geneva on June 16. Ukraine’s case will surely be on the table, but regardless of the outcome of the superpower convention, one thing is sure: Washington will not sacrifice its interests for Ukraine’s fate.