Use US Gas Exports to Undercut Russia in Europe, Warner Says

US sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Crimea have been ineffective so far and should be backed by further action to deter Russian aggression, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) told an audience at the Atlantic Council. Warner called on the Obama administration to immediately approve licenses for US gas exports to Europe, which he said would signal US readiness to undercut Russia’s dominance in providing energy to the continent.  He also urged the president to approve the construction of the Keystone pipeline as part of efforts to reinforce US energy independence.

“We’ve seen what the president has done and what the administration has done so far. They have imposed sanctions on key Russian and Crimean officials, and a major Russian bank” in response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, Warner a member of the Atlantic Council’s board of directors, told an audience of policy specialists, officials, and journalists. “I know we need to leave headroom to continue to ratchet up the sanctions, but quite honestly so far I think they’ve had very little effect, even to the point of being derided from the Russian side.”

Beyond the one billion dollars in aid sought by the White House and approved by Congress for Ukraine, Warner called on the administration to immediately free up US gas supplies for export. “We need to be able to use these energy supplies as part of our foreign policy.”  Of the first twenty applications received by the Energy Department for licenses to export liquid natural gas (LNG), “the United States has approved six,” he said. “Our call on the administration is quite simple: Expedite and approve the balance of these pending applications, or tell us in Congress why not, over the next sixty days.”  The swift approval of licenses “would send a long-term signal that we will stand with Europe, with Ukraine, and de-couple Putin’s ability to maintain this energy leverage point over these nations,” Warner said.

Warner said gas exports also will help the US economy. “Certain American companies want to keep the gas here, but I believe gas exports would help increase American jobs and security, allow us to open up other markets that may lead to further trade opportunities,” he said. “I would urge the president to go ahead and approve the Keystone pipeline within this time frame as well. Not directly related, but [it] would seem to me to send a strong signal” of the change in the United States to a more energy-independent economy.