Deep winter is approaching in Eastern and Central Europe and the Caucasus, bringing with it the prospect of icy days and frigid nights. For our friends and allies in the region, it also brings a chilly reminder of their chronic over-dependence for heat and power on natural gas from Russia, which has demonstrated a penchant for using energy as a weapon against its neighbors.
The good news is, recent trends have turned in favor of our NATO allies and other friends to break Russia’s energy dominance. The United States can capitalize on these trends by utilizing our own new-found abundance of natural gas and pursuing smart, committed diplomacy in the region, to help many nations diversify their energy imports.
Most countries in the eastern European Union, nearly all of them NATO members, as well as E.U. aspirants Ukraine and Moldova, are heavily dependent on Russian gas. In the past, Moscow showed itself quick to use energy as a club to punish and coerce its neighbors — but the Russians overplayed their hand.
After too many threats and actual cutoffs by the Kremlin, the European Commission is now going after the giant Russian state gas monopoly, Gazprom, for anti-competitive behavior and price gouging. At the same time, European countries are turning to the Middle East for new, cheaper, supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which had been intended for the United States before our own shale gas revolution turned us from a nascent importer to a potential exporter. This has helped strengthen the Europeans’ bargaining position with Russia.
These trends may not last, but they have opened a window for the United States, with our European allies, to advance broad natural gas diversification. The U.S. should move quickly to seize this opportunity.
Read more at The Washington Times. By Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN).