Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Axios in an exclusive interview that he's no longer angry about President Biden's decision to waive sanctions on the Russian company overseeing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, he's just disappointed. And he seemingly wants Washington to communicate a little more directly with Kyiv about its Russia strategy.
Nord Stream 2 is a big deal for Ukraine, whose eastern regions are typically under threat from Russia. Currently, Ukraine is a major natural gas supplier to Western Europe itself, which Zelensky said is a "powerful political tool" that forces Russia to talk to Ukraine and Europe "at the same table." But if Nord Stream 2 is completed, which looks more and more likely, Zelensky warns that "Ukraine will no longer have this leverage," leaving it vulnerable.
Biden and top administration officials, like Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have said they oppose the pipeline, but it's 95 percent complete, and they don't want to anger Germany, a major ally, so they consider the sanctions a lost cause. Even if the decision was pragmatic, Zelensky said he didn't get a heads up, telling Axios he was "surprised" by the move, especially because he learned about it — and the U.S.'s explanation for it — "through the press." "I feel that … well, between strategic partners the relations should be direct," he said. Read more at Axios and the full intereview transcript here.