On May 27th, the German Marshall Fund hosted an event in Washington, DC discussing energy security and its effects on American-European ties. Senator Richard Lugar, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund introduced the talk. He harkened back to the Russian-induced European energy crises of 2005 and 2009, and the challenges faced then, in part due to a lack of focus on the part of the State Department towards global energy security. Senator Lugar emphasized that Europe is now more aware of the risks of dependence on Russian energy, has taken steps to reduce the risks through interconnectivity and alternate sources of energy, and that America too is more focused on energy security.
Event moderator Laure Mandeville, U.S. Bureau Chief of Le Figaro, spoke about increased tensions between Europe and Russia, calling Russia “an aggressive and revisionist player.” She explained that the Georgian war of 2008, the ongoing Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s use of energy as a geopolitical weapon have all strained relations between the EU and Russia. She emphasized that the U.S. energy revolution gives new hope to Europe for energy source diversity.
In response to moderator and audience questions, Amos Hochstein, U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the Department of State, said that he is indeed worried about Russian use of energy as a political tool, and he believes that Europe should be worried as well:
“What we have to walk away from, whether it is Europe, whether it is Caribbean and Central America, or in Asia we cannot have a dependence of a region or a country on a neighbor for its most basic needs. Energy … is a critical sector because it is a commodity that supports almost everything in an economic development. You cannot have social development if people don’t have access to power”
He also gave credit to the EU for outlawing destination clauses in energy deals, allowing for reverse gas flows to avoid Russian potential energy embargos. He further explained that despite EU actions to lessen Russian control of European power supply, Russia remains a threat to the European energy system. He outlined the example of the new Lithuanian floating LNG storage and regasification terminal as positive American energy action. The platform enabled the Lithuanian government to use potential American imports as leverage to renegotiate a lower gas price with Russia.
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Watch an excerpt below: