The Energy Information Administration reported last month that even with domestic energy production slightly down, the United States remains the world’s top producer of natural gas and petroleum. It’s also been a full eight years since America outpaced Russia.
Donald Trump alluded to the foreign-policy importance of this development on Thursday. “We are sitting on massive energy, and we are now exporters of energy,” he told Central European leaders. “So if one of you need energy, just give us a call.”
That’s a veiled threat to Russia, as Investor’s Business Daily notes:
The Three Seas Initiative was started last year, with the idea of boosting economic cooperation among 12 countries — Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria — most of them former Soviet satellite nations. The idea is to strengthen mutual policies on trade, infrastructure and politics. But most of all, it's about energy.
And that's where Donald Trump comes in. In addition to selling Patriot missile batteries to Poland — in large part to undo the damage of President Obama's official policy of appeasement of Putin's Russia at Eastern Europe's expense — Trump is promoting U.S. natural gas exports to the nations taking part in the Three Seas group.
In doing so, he will not only be helping the U.S. economy, he'll also be loosening Vladimir Putin's tight grip on Eastern Europe's neck.
This is important, since one of the ways Putin's Russia imposes its will on its neighbors is through its control of energy. Russia is energy rich, Eastern Europe is energy poor. Any nation that doesn't play ball can find itself suddenly with a disruption in supply — as Putin also uses his energy pipelines across Eastern Europe as an economic threat to the European Union, which depends on Russian energy.
This is not just conjecture, by the way; it's official Russian policy. "Russian pipelines will become an integral part of the energy bridge between Europe and Asia," an official Russian energy strategy paper said in 2009, adding ominously, "And Russia will be the key center for its control."
As IBD notes, Russia has repeatedly used energy to manipulate countries dependent on it:
A research group affiliated with Sweden's Defense Ministry in 2009 identified 55 separate politically related disruptions of energy by Russia since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 2009, Russia's dispute with Ukraine led to the shutdown of energy supplies to Europe, creating a major crisis.
Expanding American energy exports will offer our European allies an alternative supply, ensuring that Putin can’t leave their people shivering. That, in turn, frees European leaders to have more courage to stand up to Moscow.