The reaction of some European countries to the US sanctions legislation was considerably sharper than that of Russia. As elaborated in the June Review, the Act would allow the US to sanction any company (including a foreign one) involved in the maintenance or development of Russia’s energy export pipelines. Increasing US LNG exports to Europe is explicitly stated as one of its objectives This would impact, not only on construction of the major Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, but also the maintenance and upgradation of other pipelines, in most of which German, French, Dutch and Austrian companies would be involved. The French and German governments made critical statements. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker threatened counter-sanctions on the United States if European concerns are not met, asserting, ‘America First’ cannot mean that Europe's interests come last”.

Central European countries were, however, conspicuously silent on the US legislation. Many oppose Nord Stream 2 and strongly advocate reduction of European dependence on Russian gas – with both commercial and strategic motivations. Twelve eastern and central European countries located between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, have grouped together in the “Three Seas Initiative” to cooperate in this effort. Significantly, President Trump, on his visit to Warsaw, ahead of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, addressed a summit meeting (July 6) of the Initiative, urging them to import more LNG from the United States. Poland, which has effectively assumed the leadership mantle of the Initiative, plans to establish LNG terminals, which would transform it into a major gas hub for Europe, just as Germany aspires to be a gas hub with Russian gas.

The ingredients are, therefore, in place for a new rift in Europe, similar to that caused by the Iraq war of 2003, with the added uncertainty about the Brexit outcomes. Russia will obviously try to shape this debate to its best advantage.

 

 July 30, 2017

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Ambassador of India to Russia; Convener, National Security Advisory Board

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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