The fight is the first significant test of whether Biden’s tough rhetoric against the Russian leader will be matched by action. Russian opponents fear Biden doesn’t want to antagonize Angela Merkel and won’t inflict serious costs on the Germans.

The big picture: The completion of Nord Stream 2 would be a huge geopolitical win for Putin and give him substantial new leverage in Europe. Russia has cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine as retribution in disputes.

Bypassing Ukraine with a direct pipeline to Germany helps Russia advance its goal of isolating its former client state, now a struggling democracy, from Western Europe.

Russian gas currently has to pass through Ukraine on its way to Europe.

The pipeline is more than 90% complete and could be finished by the summer without a major intervention to stop it.