Friday, June 24, 2011

US Policy for Russia and Central Asia

Richard Morningstar recently spoke before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, and outlined United States policy toward Russia and Central Asia, reports the Asia Times. Morningstar reaffirmed that "Europe is our partner on any number of global issues from Afghanistan to Libya to the Middle East, from human rights to free trade." As a result, the United States intends to be deeply involved in Europe's energy security. In that regard, the US will work for Europe's "diverse energy mix" in regards to supply, transportation routes, and types of energy.

Morningstar then made the following points:

  1. The US will encourage Central Asian and Caspian countries to find new routes to market;

  2. The US will push for the privatization of the energy sector;

  3. The US remains as committed to the Southern energy corridor as it was under presidents Clinton and Bush, and will promote all three possible routes (Nabucco, ITGI and TPA) as possibilities;

  4. Turkmenistan can be a major supplier of gas to Europe through the Southern Energy Corridor;

  5. The Baltics should be integrated into the European energy market so it is not as vulnerable to Russian pressure;

  6. The US will challenge Russia's efforts to monopolize Ukraine's energy sector;

  7. European countries should not negotiate energy deals unilaterally with Russia, but should negotiate together as a single energy market;

  8. Europe should consider shale gas as an alternative to Russian natural gas; and,

  9. Europe should not allow Gazprom to penetrate the European retail market.

Morningstar's message places US interests in the region clearly in opposition to Russia's. Diversity in energy sources, new Caspian energy routes, the Southern gas corridor, etc. all are designed to limit Russian energy dominance of the Eurasian land mass. What was missing from Morningstar's testimony, however, were plans on how the United States was going to implement the goals he outlined. Implementation will require more attention to the region than the current US administration has given it, to date. While the Ambassador can claim that the commitment to the Southern corridor is as strong today as previously, the last two presidents at least had ambassadors appointed to all the countries in the area--something President Obama has not done after three years in office.