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Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a Democrat who led a congressional delegation to Ukraine this weekend, tells Axios that President Biden is wrong to allow the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to move forward while Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine.

Why it matters: Gallego views Nord Stream 2 as "interlinked" with the security situation in Ukraine. The Putin-backed pipeline would bypass Ukrainian gas infrastructure and deliver Russian energy directly to Germany, eliminating one of Kyiv's last deterrents against an invasion.

  • Gallego said Biden is "incorrect" in thinking he can balance the U.S.-Germany relationship with the security risks the pipeline poses to Ukraine and Eastern Europe.
  • "Nord Stream 2 is going to be another weapon in the toolbox of Russia, and we need to stop it before it really gets going," Gallego said during a phone interview.

The big picture: Gallego and other members of the delegation — Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) — are calling on the president to move faster to send lethal military aid to Ukraine.

  • Gallego said the people of Ukraine have "the will to fight, the capabilities and the skills" to fend off Russia, but the U.S. must provide them with Javelin and Stinger missiles, drones and other equipment.
  • Maximum deterrence "means we have to kill some Russians," Gallego said on CNN Sunday, while he was still in Kyiv. "They only understand pure power. And we have to give the Ukrainian army and special forces the ability to do that."

State of play: Biden waived sanctions on the operator of Nord Stream 2 this spring to preserve the U.S. relationship with Germany, which pledged to take action if Russia used energy as a "weapon" to achieve its political goals.

  • Bipartisan members of Congress have aggressively pushed for the U.S. to reimpose sanctions as Russia threatens Ukraine, but both the Biden administration and Germany have been reluctant to undo their deal.
  • Senior Biden officials have even lobbied Democrats in Congress against including Nord Stream 2 sanctions in the annual must-pass defense bill.

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. accuses Russia of preparing "false flag" operation to attack Ukraine

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The U.S. claims to have information indicating that Russia has "already prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine," laying the groundwork for a potential pretext to invade, according to a U.S. official.

Why it matters: Diplomatic talks between the U.S., its European allies and Russia failed to produce a breakthrough this week, raising fears that Moscow will invade Ukraine and unleash a devastating new war.

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

U.S. confirms Russia arrested REvil ransomware hackers

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking in Moscow in June 2021. Photo: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS via Getty Images

Russia's security agency said Friday it arrested members of the Russia-based cyber gang REvil that was responsible for multiple massive ransomware attacks against U.S. companies last year.

The latest: A senior administration official confirmed on Friday afternoon that Russia informed the U.S. that it arrested the alleged hackers, including an individual responsible for the cyberattack that crippled the Colonial Pipeline.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.