What We're Watching: Russia-EU pipeline repairs, AMLO in the (White) House, Sri Lanka's new leader
Will Russia turn the taps back on?
“Trust us,” Russia is saying, “we’re just doing routine maintenance.” Moscow has just shut off its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a major source of natural gas for Germany, for 10 days of summer repairs. Annual checkups to these pipelines are normal, but this is no normal year. Berlin worries the Kremlin might leave the pipes closed as a way to retaliate against the EU for the bloc’s Ukraine-related sanctions. Nord Stream 1 carries about 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Germany, equaling about half of the country’s yearly consumption. If Moscow keeps the line shut, Europe would struggle to store up enough gas supplies ahead of next winter. Natural gas prices in Europe are already soaring, and although the EU is moving to wean itself off of Russian energy, any further shortfalls would further stoke already-high inflation, with unpredictable political consequences across the continent. Putin, of course, knows this. Keep an eye on that “closed for repairs” sign hanging on Nord Stream 1.
Biden meets AMLO
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, visits the White House on Tuesday for a sit-down with US President Joe Biden at a time when ties are tense. López Obrador has recently irked the Biden administration by calling US support for Ukraine a “crass error” and by skipping the US-hosted Summit of the Americas because the White House didn’t invite the authoritarian leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Washington, meanwhile, has irritated AMLO with criticisms that he’s undermined the independence of some of Mexico’s governing institutions and hasn’t done enough to protect journalists’ lives. Still, the two men will try to make progress on two key issues. On immigration, Mexico still allows the US to deport non-Mexican migrants back into Mexico under the controversial Title 42 policy, but in exchange AMLO wants Biden to authorize more work visas for Mexicans and Central Americans – perhaps a tough sell for a Democrat in an election year. Trade too will figure in the meeting: Washington is concerned about Mexico’s loose adherence to environmental and labor standards in the US-Mexico-Canada free trade deal (the NAFTA 2.0 pact that Trump negotiated in 2020.)