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Trump Plans To Undermine Russia’s Hold On Europe Through Natural Gas Exports

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President Donald Trump plans to use an excess supply of U.S. natural gas to keep Eastern European countries from being completely dependent on Russian oil and gas.

The president will tell world leaders in Poland Thursday that the U.S. wants to make it easier for companies to ship natural gas products to Eastern Europe, the White House said Monday. Trump allegedly intends to break up Russia’s energy monopolization in Europe.

Trump will attend a summit later this month involving countries surrounding the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas before he meets the Group of 20 leading economies in Germany. He is also slated to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time at the meeting.

The White House’s position would reduce the impact of Russia using energy as a weapon against European countries that stray from Putin’s bidding, James Jones, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, told reporters.

“I think the United States can show itself as a benevolent country by exporting energy and by helping countries that don’t have adequate supplies become more self-sufficient and less dependent and less threatened,” he said.

Germany and Russia are unlikely to support Trump’s position. Opposition against the president’s stance came to a head in June when the Trump administration publicly criticized Russia’s natural gas pipeline, the Nord Stream 2.

German officials pushed back against a U.S. lawmaker-led campaign to kill the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a nearly $10 billion gas line linking parts of Europe to Russia. The Nord Stream 2 is expected to shuttle an additional 55 billion cubic meters of gas directly from Russia to Germany.

Germany is heavily dependent on Russia for its gas and energy supply, using Russian gas as baseload energy to stabilize the less reliable green energy industry. Some evidence also shows that Germany’s reliance on green energy subsidies has caused damage to the country’s electrical grids.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the need for EU-Russia talks on the pipeline in early June, accusing the U.S. of politicizing its economic interests in pushing Russia out of Europe’s natural gas market.

“We cannot accept … the threat of illegal extraterritorial sanctions against European companies that participate in the development of European energy supply,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a joint statement with Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern.

Investigations into intelligence findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential race could complicate the White House’s policy. Still, many Republicans who want Trump to hold a hardline against Russia are generally supportive of the president’s position.

“It undermines the strategies of Putin and other strong men who are trying to use the light switch as an element of strategic offense,” Colorado GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement about the strategy.

Moscow relies on revenue from oil and gas sales to prop up the country’s bloated budget.

Trump’s new policy is in many ways “the most threatening U.S. policy to Russia,” said Michal Baranowski, director of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund.

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