Behind Trump’s slamming of Germany over Russian gas pipeline
President Donald Trump slammed Germany and its chancellor Angela Merkel during his European trip earlier this week, claiming that the NATO ally was beholden to Russia. The reason: Germany buys natural gas from Russia and has agreed to allow Russia to build a new pipeline between the two countries.
The president’s remarks—which came amid a tirade against NATO and the US’s NATO allies—were more than gratuitous trash talk. There was business behind it.
Trump has promulgated an energy dominance agenda, and as part of that the president is seeking to increase US oil and gas production and make the United States a net energy exporter. The administration sees Europe as a big potential market for US liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The desire to sell gas to Europe, a policy started under former President Barrack Obama, also has its geopolitical dimension. Russia has been a major source of energy for Europe and Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been shy about threatening to cut off supplies in an effort to twist arms. Weaning Europe off Russian gas supplies could stifle some of Russia’s influence in Europe. Meanwhile, members of Congress and the Trump administration’s State Department have threatened sanctions targeting the pipeline project, called Nord Stream 2, which would double the current capacity for Russian gas between Russia and Germany on a route under the Baltic Sea.
So that explains at least in part why Trump bashed Germany during the NATO summit. But when he stood alongside Putin at the infamous Helsinki press conference, Trump struck a far different tone. He contradicted the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the 2016 election, called the Mueller investigation a “disaster for our country,” and was remarkably ambivalent when it came to the pipeline.
“I think that we will be completing when you talk about the pipeline,” the president said. “I’m not sure, necessarily, that it’s in the best interests of Germany or not, but that was a decision that they made. So we’re going to be selling LNG, and we’ll have to be competing with the pipeline and I think will compete successfully, although there is a little advantage locationally. So I just wish them luck.”
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