Here's How to Use Energy to Undercut Putin
As Ukrainians struggle to preserve their independence and territory under Russian threat, they also are searching for reliable alternatives to Russian energy supplies. The decision to look across the Atlantic makes sense because U.S. liquefied natural gas could be part of a broader diversification strategy for Ukraine and its region. But the success of that strategy will depend upon key domestic reforms in the U.S. and Ukraine, private financial commitments, and concerted energy diplomacy by Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic community.
For over a decade Moscow has used energy as leverage against its neighbors in political disputes. No country has been as severely affected as Ukraine. In 2006 and 2009 Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine in winter following a dispute over prices, debts and political issues, with ripple effects for gas supplies throughout Central and Western Europe.
In 2010, Moscow extracted from Kiev a 32-year extension for stationing Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Crimea in exchange for a $40 billion gas discount for Ukraine. In early April, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote to EU leaders, threatening to "completely or partially cease gas deliveries" to Ukraine if it refuses to pay its gas bill in advance, and Russia is running up the cost of gas financing for Ukraine by increasing prices by nearly 80%.
Neil Brown is a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.