On June 7th, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his “surprise” and “disappointment” that US President Joe Biden allowed Nord Stream 2’s first string to complete, and that he wouldn’t meet him.
Zelensky still appears to not lose hope, comparing Biden to “Michael Jordan” who sometimes makes questionable “plays” that are part of a bigger plan to “score a three pointer and win in the end”.
“You know, that reminds me of how Michael Jordan used to play. He is my favorite basketball player, no offence to other wonderful NBA players, who are indeed galore. Even Michael Jordan very often used to lure his opponent, sometimes by demonstrating pretend weakness or even signs of illness. He had a variety of secret tricks for making his opponent feel relaxed and for imposing his own tactics onto him, imposing the false sense of close victory. And then Jordan would change his tactics dramatically, and he would grab the victory at the very last minute. That was part of his tactics. Therefore I still believe after all, that Biden is a Jordan in politics,” he said.
“I think that his final three-pointer is not in the net yet, and I would like to believe that this is all part of his tactics. If this is not the case, that will be a great pity, not only for me, but for the United States as well, I am sure. There will be a feeling that in these circumstances Russia will have a great chance to prevail over the United States,” he added.
His disappointment was exacerbated after on June 4th, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the completion of the first string of Nord Stream 2.
The White House has called the pipeline “a Kremlin geopolitical project that threatens European energy security.” But Biden nonetheless backed off U.S. sanctions on the company working to finish the pipeline.
Zelensky said he has moved past anger and would now describe his feeling as one of disappointment. He also said Biden had offered him “direct signals” that the U.S. was prepared to block the pipeline.
Russian gas currently flows through Ukraine en route to Europe. Nord Stream 2, a Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, would allow Russia to circumvent and isolate Kiev. Zelensky said the U.S. is the only power capable of stopping Russia.
“This is a weapon, a real weapon … in the hands of the Russian Federation,” he said. “It is not very understandable … that the bullets to this weapon can possibly be provided by such a great country as the United States.”
Still, Zelensky hoped that Biden would meet him before the Putin summit sometime in June. His wish, however, was denied.
“The State Department has regularly engaged with Ukrainian officials regarding Nord Stream 2. Prior to the transmission of the most recent report to Congress, the State Department notified the Ukrainian ambassador in Washington and senior officials in Kyiv, including the president’s chief of staff, of the contents of the report,” a White House spokesperson told Axios.
“The administration is committed to continuing to consult with Ukraine as we press Germany to address the risks Nord Stream 2 poses to Ukraine and European energy security. We also welcome Ukraine’s direct engagement with the German government about their concerns.”
“When President Biden meets with President Putin in Geneva, he will stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as he has done in both of his earlier calls to President Putin.”
There were considerations to invite Zelensky to Washington, but the plans were cancelled after the Ukrainian president decided to replace the management of state energy company Naftogaz. That move led to concerns in the administration he was backsliding on anti-corruption efforts.
The White House says it proposed the Putin summit to seek a “stable and predictable” relationship with Putin, to Kiev’s disappointment.
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