U.S. Fracking To Europe’s Rescue

  • Date: 30/03/14
  • Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

Could U.S. fracking be stiffening Europe’s spine in a stand against Russia?

The FT reports that EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht argued this week that the EU could be better placed than many think to withstand an “economic  showdown” with Russia over Crimea. One eye-catching detail: De Gucht suggested that U.S. gas exports could make up for supplies lost from Russia. While U.S. exports to the EU cannot replace Russian gas overnight, the signs from Brussels indicate that EU officials are using the prospect of hydrocarbon imports from North America as leverage in their struggle with Putin:

The Belgian commissioner rejected the assertion that Europe, which imports 30 per cent of its gas from Russia, could only build up greater resilience slowly. “Sometimes, history can move very fast,” he said. “If they were trying to strangle us, we would of course call on the US for access to their gas, independently from a free trade agreement. That would be a hugely political factor.” [...]

He argued that America’s increasing gas exports would pile greater pressure on Gazprom and added that a deal over Iran’s disputed nuclear programme could also open up the world’s second biggest gas reserves for export to Europe.

This kind of energy security is one more reason to develop fracking. But the EU commissioner’s comments are also a timely illustration of an important element of American power. Vitality, innovation, and wealth creation characterize American society and suffuse the U.S. economy. Those qualities often rescue us from the worst consequences of our foreign policy blunders. The true source of American power has never been in the think tanks of Washington, the echoing corridors of the State Department, or even in the labyrinthine coils of the Pentagon. America’s power among the nations rests on the dynamism and creativity of the American people. The chambers of commerce often succeed where the Council on Foreign Relations fails. That pattern is still holding today.

The American Interest, 29 March 2014