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U.S. Ready to Work with European Allies to Diversify NatGas, Oil Supplies, Says Tillerson

The United States is “eager” to work with its European allies to develop natural gas and oil infrastructure to help diversify the continent’s energy supply, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told an audience on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, the former ExxonMobil Corp. chief discussed the shared goals of the United States and Europe and offered recommendations on how to strengthen their alliances -- and their energy security.

Russia, which now is the biggest natural gas supplier to Europe through its pipeline system, invaded the Ukraine in 2014 and annexed Crimea, which led to sanctions on Russian companies and executives.

The incursion “made clear how energy supplies can be wielded as a political weapon,” Tillerson said. “Enhancing European energy security by ensuring access to affordable, reliable, diverse and secure supplies of energy is fundamental to national security objectives.”

The United States is “liberalizing” the rules governing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and crude oil exports, “and we’re eager to work with European allies to ensure the development of needed infrastructure like import terminals and interconnecting pipelines to promote the diversity of supply to Europe.”

At the Three Seas Summit in July, President Trump said the United States would provide technical support for Croatia’s Krk Island Project, underway by LNG Croatia LLC, Tillerson noted. The export project is designed to provide a gas supply route for central and southeastern European countries.

Expect more partnerships, Tillerson said.

“The United States will continue to support European infrastructure projects, such as LNG-receiving facilities in Poland and the Interconnector Greece Bulgaria pipeline, to ensure that no country from outside Europe’s Energy Union can use its resources or its position in the global energy market to extort other nations,” he said.

However, the United States continues “to view the development of pipelines like the Nord Stream 2 and the multi-line TurkStream as unwise, as they only increase market dominance from a single supplier to Europe.”

Nord Stream 2 would transport Russian gas to the central EU market, while TurkStream would carry Russian gas to Turkish markets.

“The United States and Europe face many challenges and threats that -- unlike in the past -- are simultaneously dispersed among many geographic frontlines and across multiple domains, whether nonstate terrorist actors, threats of a more conventional nature, cyber threats, or nuclear threats,” Tillerson said.

“Because we know we are stronger in confronting these challenges when we are working together, we will pursue even greater cooperation from and with the nations of Europe, our best partners. History has shown that when we are united, we succeed in the face of shared challenges.”

Russia is a “challenge,” he said. While Europe and the United States have sought to normalize their relationships with the country, “Russia has shown it seeks to define a new post-Soviet global balance of power, one in which Russia, by virtue of its nuclear arsenal, seeks to impose its will on others by force or by partnering with regimes who show a disregard for their own citizens, as is the case with Bashar al-Assad’s continuous use of chemical weapons against his own people” in Syria.

When the Soviet Union was dissolved, the “liberalized Russian society...created new trade opportunities that benefit Russians, Europeans and Americans.”
However, Tillerson said Russia often has used “malicious tactics” against the United States and Europe to drive the countries apart, weaken confidence and undermine the political and economic successes achieved together since the end of the Cold War.

“Playing politics with energy supplies, launching cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns to undermine free elections, and serially harassing and intimidating diplomats are not the behaviors of a responsible nation,” Tillerson said of Russia. “Attacking a neighboring country and threatening others does nothing to improve the lives of Russians or enhance Russia’s standing in the world.”

While the United States wants Russia “to be a constructive neighbor of Europe and of the larger transatlantic community...that is Russia’s choice to make. Russia can continue to isolate and impoverish itself by sowing disorder abroad and impeding liberty at home, or it can become a force that will advance the freedom of Russians and the stability of Eurasia.”

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