Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky learned of President Joe Biden’s decision to waive sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which entails significant national security interest for Ukraine, through the the media.
Zelensky claimed that the White House never warned him that the U.S. would be waiving Trump-era sanctions designed to hamper or stop Russia from completing another natural gas pipeline to Germany. The pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was completed late last week.
“Well, to be honest, we were very surprised,” Zelsnksy told Axios is an interview on Friday. Zelensky was also apparently unaware that Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced the pipeline’s completion that same day.
“I truly thought that when it came to Nord Stream 2, the United States remained the last standing outpost, so to say,” Zelensky said. “We understand that only the U.S. is capable of stopping this construction. You know, we had this first conversation with President Biden, it was a phone conversation, and I received all the signals. They were direct signals, and I was very happy about it. I know that we’ve always had bipartisan support in the United States. But I’ve always said, indeed, all the experts and the diplomats have had the same understanding, that Biden knows Ukraine better than any other previous, former President, and therefore he understands all the issues, and, what’s most important, all the security risks. That is why, again, we were very unpleasantly surprised.”
With the completion of the pipeline, Zelemsky fears that Ukraine has lost some of its leverage with Russia. The two countries have been at war since 2014 when Russia invaded and annexed part of eastern Ukraine. Ukraine, the weaker of the two, has been able to force Russia into diplomatic discussions, however, because Ukraine has served as the middle man for Russia to sell natural gas in the European market. The new pipeline will carry gas from Russia directly to Germany.
Zelensky said that Biden had the ability to alleviate much suffering of the Ukraine people if Biden had carried through with the sanctions. “What is definitely true, is that he can help, so that fewer people have to suffer. This is exactly what he has the power to influence,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian president said that he was angry when he first heard the news, but that anger has turned to disappointment in the United States.
“The feeling of anger — it is over now,” Zelensky told Axios. “I feel that … you know … it is quite a different feeling. It is a feeling of disappointment.”
Zelensky said that the Biden administration had effectively supplied Putin with “a real weapon” to use against Ukraine.
“We understand that this is a weapon, a real weapon, and I speak openly about it. A weapon in the hands of the Russian Federation, and it is not very understandable, I feel, and definitely not expected, that the bullets to this weapon can possibly be provided by such a great country as the United States because it is an exemplary civilization, an exemplary democracy in the world,” Zelensky said, adding that Biden’s decision to waive sanctions “is definitely not aimed at supporting Ukraine.”
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