Joe Biden is trying to trade a trade war with Russia for more investment in renewable energy

Vice President Joe Biden plans to travel to Israel and Europe in October to discuss increasing investment in U.S. clean-energy technology. The timing is interesting given that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has put new focus on the need to combat climate change after the release of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Two developments have put Democrats in a bind. The first is the decision by the American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, to scrap existing plans to build a natural gas pipeline from Israel’s Negev Desert to Slovakia. Slovakia is one of Europe’s top importers of Russian natural gas, much of which flows via pipelines in Ukraine, which supplies European countries with about 30 percent of their natural gas.

“Using the interests of the U.S. and Europe in order to benefit one or the other of the Russian energy industry just doesn’t seem to comport with our values,” Netanyahu said on Thursday.

The pipeline was to be used by the Aramex Group, a Belgian shipping company that bought the Yarmouk Gas Company, which had been operating a pipeline that carried fuel from the Yarmouk gas fields in the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

And then there’s former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened,” which takes on President Trump’s campaign tactics, including the use of Russia to steal Democratic National Committee emails that later became public.

Clinton writes, “If we allowed Russian-connected people to purchase and influence our political process with laptops, stolen bank accounts, and stolen speeches, they could do the same with actual influence agents in Russia.”

Biden joins Democratic senators from the early 2016 presidential primary primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa in promising tough tariffs on EU supplies of steel and aluminum. Unlike Clinton, who has advocated for the imposition of both types of tariffs since early 2016, Biden has recently gone so far as to say there is a “good argument” to impose tariffs on imported petroleum products.

Biden says the Trump administration’s move to increase tariffs on European steel will hit U.S. workers hard, since countries like Europe are good customers of American factories. “What are they going to do,” Biden said at a rally for USAToday, “slap up some tariffs and pass them along to American workers who will just be busting their asses to make enough to go to Europe.”

When pushed by Matt Fuller, the Washington Post’s deputy social media editor, Biden argued in support of tariffs. He said “we can’t stand idly by as other countries leave us without any tools at all, and do a great job of it.”

But Biden should be wary of entering into a spending-spending-spending war with an opponent as smart and tough as Putin. By Trump’s own account, Trump’s new budget strategy includes $20 billion in increased defense spending without any cuts to domestic agencies or to social safety nets.

Trump claimed to have negotiated a lower, bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement with Putin. In June, Russia placed new missiles in Kaliningrad, a group of Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea. Those missiles have “a range capability of 3,000 kilometers that is comparable to U.S. Air Force ICBMs.”

The U.S. had similar concerns about Russia, having in February 2017 extended its 2015 nuclear deal with Iran for another decade. Under the deal, Iran agreed to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium, and do other things to not develop nuclear weapons.

The money that the U.S. would save by placing a tariff on Russian fuel that is shipped via one of its pipelines would be spent to pay for equipment to convert coal-burning power plants into low-carbon models.

The Trump administration is reportedly discussing making other changes to the terms of the Iran deal. The Obama administration “would never have allowed [the new deal] to come to pass,” Biden told U.S.AToday. He is probably right.

But if Biden insists on starting a trade war, he could face a tough fight with the Democratic base. Trump’s unorthodox approach to foreign policy shows no signs of changing.

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