In another geopolitical blunder by the Biden administration, on January 9, 2022, Washington withdrew its support for the EastMed pipeline. A decision coordinated with Turkey, without prior consultation with Greece, Cyprus and Israel. These nations were rudely notified by email via an “unofficial” State Department document calling the Middle East a “major source of tension” in the eastern Mediterranean and antithetical to Washington’s “climate objectives.”
Washington had earlier supported, against Turkish opposition, the January 2020 agreement between Israel, Greece and Cyprus for a 1,180-mile underwater pipeline at a cost of $6.8 billion, which would then be extended overland from Greece, with support from Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia, to bring 20 billion cubic meters of Israeli natural gas per year to southeastern Europe, diversifying supply to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas.
In July 2021 the Biden administration jettisoned the longstanding bipartisan consensus that Democrats and Republicans had agreed on in Congress during the Obama and Trump administrations to support the position of both presidents in opposing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would double Russian natural gas supplies to Germany by transporting it under the Baltic Sea. Under Biden, Washington first supported Nord Stream 2 and then opposed EastMed.
“…it’s a project that probably shouldn’t be advanced because it’s too complicated, too expensive and too late in the arc of history (…) Why would we build a fossil fuel pipeline between the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe at a time when our entire policy is to support new technologies, developments and investments in cleaner green energy?”
This is the same Hochstein who in 2020 defended the importance of natural gas in an energy transition stating that:
“The conversation about transition has to move from an emotional, goal-oriented one to one that is fact-based, information-driven and technology-based. Where are we really going and how will we achieve the goals? It will take longer to achieve the transitions we all hope for. I really believe natural gas will play a much bigger role in the transition.”
The same Hochstein who first opposed Nord Stream 2 and then joined the Biden administration’s U-turn in favor of the pipeline that will increase Russian natural gas consumption in the EU, especially in Germany, making Berlin a weak hostage to any threat by Moscow to cut off gas supplies.
Attributing the geostrategic folly of abandoning the EastMed pipeline to Washington’s green energy goals for Europe is a weak excuse when stated by the same administration that in parallel supports exporting far more natural gas from Russia to Europe than would come from Israel.
Washington has rudely left allies such as Israel, Greece, Cyprus in the lurch, and has generated dislike and distrust towards the current administration in Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia solely to “appease” Erdoğan. In 2019 Ankara, which seeks the role of hegemonic power in the eastern Mediterranean, signed a memorandum with Libya to claim jurisdiction over 39 thousand square kilometers of Greek territorial waters and requires that if Israeli gas is to be exported to Europe it should only and exclusively be done through the Trans-Anatolia gas pipeline, but to allow this, it already demanded in 2016 that Tel Aviv lift its blockade of the Hamas terrorist rule in the Gaza Strip.
The Biden administration weakened Israel, Greece and Cyprus to strengthen Turkey while securing Moscow’s ability to extort Berlin. Faced with this clumsy show of weakness by Washington, Ankara will redouble its bullying in the eastern Mediterranean, strengthen ties with Moscow and move closer to Tehran. Meanwhile, Beijing will take note of another of Biden’s geopolitical blunders from which to take advantage in one way or another.