The letter is a sign that there are strong anti-Russian sentiments and continued pro-European attitudes in the US. The assumption is that blocking Nord Stream 2 would help Europe’s energy security – writes Dr. Anna Mikulska from the Center for Energy Research Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston.
Whether the letter is going be entertained by the current Administration we don’t know. For now the new sanctions imposed March 15th do not include energy issues and Nord Stream 2. Important to note is also that the new sanctions were announced with a delay.
Also, there are several issues associated with US direct intervention and blocking of Nord Stream 2.
Nord Stream 2 divides Europe
Nord Stream 2 is controversial and generally speaking divides Europe into the West and Central-Eastern camps. US intervention would be welcome in the latter but could potentially heighten anti-US sentiments in the West and potentially worsen the inter-EU divisions. This would be undesirable as Europe internally divided and distrustful toward allies is also less secure in terms of energy access. And the EU does not need more setbacks than it already experiences (i.e. Brexit).
Can one depend on Ukraine?
If not Nord Stream 2 then what? Ukrainian transit? Today Ukraine is undergoing much needed reforms, including energy reforms and it remains to be seen what they truly will be able to accomplish. Reforms by previous administrations have were generally not successful with political elites relatively quickly turning back to the familiar politically-charged arrangements with Gazprom. One should hope that the current reforms succeed.
This is why EU should help Ukraine but also should look into other diversification efforts. If these efforts are successful – new pipelines can deliver Azeri gas, or LNG from US, Australia, or Qatar …can access all countries in Europe – Nord Stream 2 (and Russia) will have difficulties with threatening Europe’s energy security. Gazprom will need to compete for market access instead of being able to dictate the conditions of gas delivery and Russia won’t be able to exert political pressure using natural gas deliveries as collateral.
Watch out for Putin
Additionally US reaction solely focused on blocking Nord Stream 2 may be used by Russia’s administration to increase its domestic popularity. There is nothing better to unite people than common enemy. If Nord Stream 2 doesn’t get built and Russia feels the negative consequences of undelivered natural gas volumes, it will be easy for President Putin to designate US actions as a reason for the malady. In fact, he will most likely to use the U.S. actions to justify potentially low economic growth in general (as predicted Russia will experience going forward)
Therefore US policy makers should think carefully to incorporate energy security measures. It’s important that the issues associated with Nord Stream 2 is noticed but US actions should be much broader and lead to better US-EU relations and higher intra-EU solidarity rather then increase internal divisions and/or potentially strengthen Russian government’s and President Putin’s domestic support and popularity.