Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan had this to say about Putin's move in Ukraine:
Russian President Vladimir Putin will seize even more territory if the United States isn’t “a little bit tougher” on him, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Sunday.
“He goes to bed at night thinking of Peter the Great and he wakes up thinking of Stalin,” the Michigan Republican said of Putin on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We need to understand who he is and what he wants," Rogers said. "It may not fit with what we believe of the 21st century.” [POLITICO]
Which made me think. One huge advantage of Putin's occupation of Crimea is the delivery of natural gas to a thirsty European market.
Crimea may account for less than 4 percent of Ukraine’s gross domestic product but is vital to developing the substantial Black Sea oil and gas that lies in its watershed. Moscow’s acquisition of the Ukrainian peninsula blocks Kiev’s physical access to those resources and is scaring off private foreign capital that seemed ready to develop them.
If the region is to stay under Russian control, as seems all but assured, Russia’s state-owned oil and gas giants will likely step in to fill the void. That would further expand Moscow’s resource leverage over Europe and again hamper Kiev’s efforts to secure its energy future. [CS Monitor]
Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee says that the USA and Europe need to get tougher with Putin.
Now consider this. We could get real tough with Putin if America found a way to export more of our abundant natural gas and destroyed him in the marketplace. And though it occurred to me recently, others have already given it detailed thought.
The U.S. government is facing pressure from all corners to ramp up natural-gas exports as a way to weaken Russia’s hand over Ukraine. To the casual observer, this debate might have seemed to come out of nowhere.
Why are exports of natural gas such a hot topic in the Ukraine crisis, but not oil?
The difference is in how they’re priced. Oil is priced on a global market, while natural gas is priced on a regional basis. Russia has used its relative monopoly—within Europe it supplies six nations with 100% of the gas they consume, and it supplies seven nations with 50% or more—as leverage over the region, and in some cases it’s gone so far to cut off gas resources to these countries when it wants to flex its muscle. In the U.S., prices are dirt cheap compared to Asia and Europe, so Europe sees the U.S. as an attractive source for natural gas. Such exports would have the added strategic benefit of reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russia.
Why don’t we export more natural gas, since we have so much of it now?
A law dating back to 1938 restricts such exports. For the 20 countries that are free-trade partners with the U.S., such as Mexico and South Korea, the law requires the Energy Department, which has primary authority over energy exports, to automatically approve applications to export natural gas. For countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the U.S., which happen to be the ones who want our gas the most (i.e., Ukraine and other European nations) the law says the Energy Department must first determine whether it’s in the “public interest.” This means DOE must determine whether exporting natural gas to these countries serves the U.S. interests, weighing factors like the economy, environment and national security.[Wall Street Journal]
Now don't get me wrong, I'm convinced that Putin believed he was making a wise move in Crimea, but when billions of dollars in natural gas exports are involved, don't for one minute think that others haven't been tinkering with the politics in Crimea.
The US employs many, many overseas political operatives who act in ways that, at the time, seem to benefit the USA.
As I've always said, if something happens in politics, you can pretty well expect that somebody planned it that way.
Look for calls to export more liquid natural gas to ramp up considerably.