Confronting Russian energy hegemony in Europe

by RAFAEL BENAROYA

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Russia’s global aggression has included both overt and covert acts—most notably military interventions in Ukraine and Syria, influence peddling in Venezuela, and election meddling throughout the West. But the threat posed by Russian control over energy is just as significant—and growing. Russia is seeking to expand its energy influence in China, India and, especially, Europe. In my interactions with European and U.S. government officials, it has become clear that Russian energy is an increasingly critical issue for European autonomy and security, as well as for the strategic global interests of the United States.

More than a dozen U.S. allies in Europe rely on Russian gas for at least 75% of their energy. Gazprom, the Kremlin-backed energy giant, commands more than a third of Europe’s gas imports. Industry leaders expect Russia to export a record 200 billion cubic meters of gas this year and in the short term, Russia’s energy leverage is likely to grow even more. Europe’s domestic gas output is expected to fall in the coming years, while demand rises, and Russia is moving to fill the gap with new pipelines through the Baltic and Black Seas.

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The rest of Europe should look at Poland as a role model for diversifying energy sources and fighting against Russia’s energy hegemony. And, like Poland, other European nations should look to the U.S. as an allied source of energy—to bolster the continent’s economic strength and reduce its dependence on Russian energy. Energy security IS national security—for Europe as a whole, as well as for each country individually. As both the most important asset in Russia’s economy and the lubricant for its external aggression, energy must continue to be a prime focus in the West’s actions toward Russia.

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