July 07, 2017

Trump Should Urge Europe to Resist Putin’s Pipeline Politics

By Jim Townsend

President Donald Trump may not have an agenda to guide his huddle with Russian President Putin on the margins of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, but the G20 does. Unfortunately, the G20 agenda likely does not include Nord Stream 2, the planned second Russian natural gas pipeline to Europe. This makes it all the more crucial that Trump raise Nord Stream 2 directly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Far from being just a simple “economic project” between Russia and the European Union as Merkel has claimed, Nord Stream 2 will strengthen Russia’s hand in using energy to coerce European allies and partners. Germany has the most to gain from this second pipeline and Merkel has the influence, but not the motivation, to stop the Russian project. If Nord Stream 2 is allowed to proceed, it will offer an irrevocable advantage to a cunning adversary and undermine EU security and sovereignty, with adverse consequences not just for Europe but for the United States. If Trump really means “America first,” he needs to raise the pipeline issue with Merkel.

Odds are that Nord Stream 2 does not top the agenda for many Washington swamp dwellers either, but it should. Russia has shown for years that the weapons in its arsenal go beyond its military. Putin has not hesitated to weaponize access to Russian energy to coerce his neighbors, especially Ukraine. With most of Europe still dependent on Russia for a portion of its energy needs, Putin’s energy weapon is potent. The easy availability of cheap Russian gas is seductive for European nations, who would rather spend their money on things other than alternative fuels. At the moment, alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, or nuclear don’t come close in cost and ease of access to Russian gas, leading to Europe’s strong dependence on Russian energy. Even if Russia is successful in feeding Europe’s dependence through a second pipeline, there is no guarantee that European expectations of lower Russian energy prices will be more than a mirage.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.

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