Shared visions make for strong allies. The US and EU interests in each other’s energy security run deep for a reason. Energy security and interconnectivity breed economic opportunity and stability as well as political security, all of which are of the highest priority on both sides of the Atlantic.
Although the US and EU agree in general on what “energy security” means, their conceptions may diverge when identifying the security concerns of specific projects such as the development of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline—Russia’s newest direct pipeline to Europe.
Transatlantic leaders are divided on whether NS2 is a commercial project or a Trojan horse for Russia to increase its political and economic influence in the west. Even within Europe there are conflicting views regarding NS2. Whether NS2 takes place or not, it is critical that the US and EU have a shared understanding of energy security risks and continue to cooperate in addressing them. Energy security is necessary to maintain the enormous trade and investment relationship between the United States and Europe as well as our strong political and security alliance.
Despite disagreements on NS2, the transatlantic coalition continues to have many shared priorities and values. The US and EU agree on key components of energy security: reliable, accessible, affordable sources of energy; trustworthy suppliers; well-functioning energy markets; necessary infrastructure; and regulations conducive to transparent, fair energy transactions. Nevertheless, NS2 is dividing the West on what constitutes energy security threats.
A quick glance at Europe's energy landscape puts the impact of NS2 into perspective. Gas makes up roughly 24% of Europe’s energy consumption. About 40% of gas is imported from Russia through extensive networks of pipelines, many of which go through transit states. More than half of Gazprom’s gas comes through Ukraine’s robust transit system.
NS2 will carry up to 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually. Parallel to its sister pipeline—Nord Stream (commissioned in 2011)—NS2 will double the capacity of gas directly delivered to Germany from Russia to 110 bcm annually, creating a direct threat to Ukraine’s transit system and increasing Russian political leverage over Ukraine at a time when Russia has annexed Crimea, interfered in Eastern Ukraine, and blocked Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov.
The disagreements on NS2 should not prevent the US and EU from making progress on energy security in other areas. We can work together through the Three Seas Initiative —a collaboration of 12 EU Member states to boost connectivity in energy, infrastructure, and digital platforms, leading to stability and economic development that benefit all transatlantic allies. The US and EU can similarly synchronize efforts to develop more interconnections and storage facilities, alternative sources of supply, such as liquified natural gas and increased cooperation in developing renewables, other sources of low carbon emissions, and greater energy efficiency.
Whether or not NS2 happens, the US and EU must work together to mitigate the effects of over-reliance on Russian gas and Russian geopolitical bullying. This can be done by cooperating to further the EU’s ongoing efforts to create transparent, competitive gas and electricity markets. Strategic developments in infrastructure and upgrades such as reverse flows, increase flexibility in product movements in response to market forces. Success in these areas will force Russia to operate competitively in a transparent market.
Cooperation on energy security goes far beyond issues relating to Russia. As partners, we must address other global threats such as: climate change, cybersecurity, supply unpredictability and market abuses. The tension over NS2 should be viewed as an opportunity for transatlantic allies to redefine and build a common vision for energy security. We cannot allow the lack of a shared, clear vision of what constitutes energy security or any specific project to create risks to our security on both sides of the Atlantic.