Nord Stream 2 is an almost-finished natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. The Biden administration opposes it and has come under congressional pressure to invoke sanctions to prevent its completion, in large part because the pipeline seems a geopolitical project targeted at Ukraine. The German government, however, regards the pipeline as a “commercial project” and appears committed to its completion, perhaps in the next few months. U.S. sanctions applied on Russian entities to date have failed to stop Nord Stream 2, raising the question of whether the U.S. government would sanction German and other European companies for servicing or certifying the pipeline. Such sanctions would provoke controversy with Germany at a time when both Berlin and the Biden administration seek to rebuild good relations. The two sides have work to do if they wish to avoid Nord Stream 2 becoming a major point of U.S.-German contention.
The author is grateful to Ed Chow, Dan Fried, and Constanze Stelzenmüller for reviewing and commenting on drafts of this paper. He, of course, is responsible for the final content. The author is also grateful to Ted Reinert, who edited this paper with assistance from Lucy Seavey, and to Rachel Slattery, who provided the layout.
AAPI Heritage Month: Safeguarding Asian American inclusion and belonging
President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.