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By Elizabeth Rosenberg, CNAS Director of Energy, Environment, and Security Program

Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor

In this March 19th assessment provided by the Center for a New American Security, Elizabeth Rosenberg urges the United States and Western Europe to go beyond the initial targeted sanctions aimed at Russia for its seizure of Crimea and its positioning of Russian armed forces so as to facilitate a possible further advance into Ukraine. It is time to pull the energy lever that will implement a “long-term economic approach to make European allies more secure and weaken Moscow’s hand.”

The U.S., she writes, must prepare to move beyond its initial tightening of the “financial handcuffs” on individual Russians and some of their country’s government agencies. Though Russia is “a global energy power-house,” Europe showed between 2006 and 2009 that it can take steps to reduce its dependence on Russia, and now is the time for a “much harder push to shrink Russian gas and economic influence in Europe.” The U.S. should take steps that will promote European “energy diversity” and reduce the region’s dependence on Russia.

The Congress, for example, should abandon the “energy independence mindset” behind laws that restrict exports of American natural gas. Whether or not such loosening sends gas directly to Europe, it increases global supplies and undercuts Russia. To the same end, the Department of Energy should speed action on the twenty proposed “liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects” now awaiting approval, and the U.S. might also help finance LNG receiving facilities in Europe. Finally, sharing “American shale know-how” could also help Europe develop its own untapped energy fields, especially those in Ukraine and Romania.

None of those actions will ensure that natural gas will begin flowing in Europe short of several years, but they will begin to “chip away at Russia’s gas pricing power” and its future ability to influence European foreign policy. If delayed now, Europe’s dependence on Russian will continue far longer than need be. Now is a time to take the long view.

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