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Placing Pipeline Politics in Perspective

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online dissents from the publication’s official stance on Russian pipeline politics.

Conservatives have it wrong on Nord Stream 2 in particular because conservatives have it wrong on U.S.-EU relations in general. The U.S.-EU relationship will be the most important bulwark for liberal-democratic values against the Chinese challenge in the coming decades — if Washington and Brussels don’t screw it up.

But first take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of the United States’ trying to use sanctions to bully Europeans out of importing Russian gas while the United States spent every day of 2020 importing, on average, 538,000 barrels of Russian oil, which is more than we import from Saudi Arabia. All that talk about American “energy independence” was, and always has been, baloney — baloney by the barrel, millions of them.

There is no such thing as energy independence for the United States or for our allies or for any advanced country — world energy markets are thoroughly integrated, and the United States will for the foreseeable future continue to rely in some part on imports to fill specific market needs even while it enjoys its position as a net exporter of petroleum. The United States imports more Russian oil than does Japan or India, and our consumption of Russian oil has increased in spite of our hawkish posture toward Moscow, in part because the collapse of Venezuela has left a big hole on the supply side of the ledger. Domestic ampleness and highly developed trade relationships give the United States energy choices, not energy independence.

That it is good to have choices is as keenly appreciated in Berlin and Brussels as it is in Washington. Like the United States, the nations of the European Union prefer to be in a situation in which they have ready access to as many different sources of energy as is practical.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...