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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Experts See U.S. Energy Exports as Foil to Russian Aggression -- Approving additional natural gas exports could blunt Kremlin’s influence -- By Lachlan Markay, The Washington Free Beacon

Vladimir Putin / APExperts suggested increasing U.S. oil and gas exports could be an effective way to blunt Russian influence following its invasion of the Crimea.

The Kremlin has used its extensive oil and gas supplies to exert influence over a number of Eastern European countries, including Ukraine. While that country has reduced imports from Russia, it remains highly dependent on fossil fuels from the nation.

Gazprom, the Russian state-owned oil company, has signaled that it may hike energy prices for Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz in August.

Observers see that threat as a continuation of Russia’s long use of energy policy as a geopolitical cudgel. The strategy “is a traditional Russian move to pressure Ukraine,” said Mikhail Korchemkin, director of East European Gas Analysis.

The ability of the United States to at least partially make up for a reduction in Russian exports, which could affect not just Ukraine but much of the continent, highlight U.S. interests in approving additional energy export projects, experts said.

Doing so could help blunt Russia’s control over the continent’s energy market, according to Council on Foreign Relations Fellows Robert Blackwill and Meghan O’Sullivan.

“The influx of North American gas to the market will not entirely free the rest of Europe from Russia’s influence,” they recently wrote. “But additional suppliers will give European customers leverage they can use to negotiate better terms with Russian producers, as they managed to do in 2010 and 2011.”

Despite these potential benefits, the Obama administration has been slow to approve export licenses for liquefied natural gas terminals in the United States.

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