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Europe Refuses to Set House in Order

On the global stage, President Donald Trump, a disruptor of norms to the extreme, has been smeared as a puppet for Russia’s Vladimir Putin. European critics point to the fact that the U.S. president has chastised close allies, such as Germany at the NATO summit, to make the claim that he is attempting to fracture the West.

However, a more careful consideration of the actions of Trump (as well as those of his European critics) paints a vastly different picture.

President Donald Trump

Trump, far from being a stooge for the Kremlin, has approved harsh sanctions against Russian industrialists and government officials, sold anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainians without fear of Russian retaliation, and encouraged the growth of American energy enterprises through deregulation.

Regarding the latter, Trump said, "We have ended the war on American energy -- and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal. We are now very proudly, an exporter of energy to the world."

This presidential support for American energy dominance is a negative for Russia, which is reliant on income spurred by petroleum and natural gas. According to Marion Candau of Euractiv, these revenues "currently generate 30% of the country’s GDP and 50% of the state budget."

An analysis by Joseph Webster for BMB Russia crunched the numbers and further demonstrated the cruciality of energy to the Russian economy, coming a blunt conclusion: The "Russian economy is heavily dependent on energy, particularly oil."

These assessments make it starkly obvious that Russia desperately needs a strong energy industry in order to prop up its otherwise stagnant economy. By encouraging American energy dominance and chipping away at Russia's market share in the industry, Trump is hitting Putin where it hurts.

Russian pain has been exacerbated thanks to Trump's hard-hitting sanctions, which prevent "oligarchs from traveling to the United States or doing business or even opening a bank account with any major company or bank in the West," according to The New York Times.

The presidential objective is clear: Trump wants to bring the Russian economy to a screeching halt.


On the other hand, European nations -- whose leaders accuse Trump of being a Russian stooge -- are complicit in allowing Russia's economic gears to churn.

Led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany "relied on Russia for 50 percent to 75 percent of its natural gas imports in 2017," according to a CNBC report.

Merkel and Putin

As if they haven't done enough to advance Russia's interests, Germany is now building an economically interdependent relationship with the Kremlin through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

According to The Washington Post, "Merkel has not shown any willingness to halt the controversial pipeline project," and worse yet, the German government "has been pursuing its Nord Stream 2 project for years" (emphasis mine).

Essentially, rather than joining Trump and crippling Russia economically, Germany, which is already reliant on Putin's energy thanks to the original Nord Stream pipeline, will make matters worse by establishing more taps for Russian gas within its own borders. The Germans' current levels of reliance -- 50% to 75% -- will likely swell to unprecedented heights in the near future.

This reality, not a hatred for Western civilization, is why Trump said that Germany is a "captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia." Trump recognizes that Merkel, by connecting German industries and consumers to Russian gas via Nord Stream (and the successive Nord Stream 2), is making a grave error: She is effectively interlocking Germany's future economic activity with the whims of Vladimir Putin.

Map: Nord Stream pipelines

Germany isn't just putting itself in jeopardy, either -- it is endangering a region. A Newsweek report published in 2014 explained that half of the gas that Europe bought from Gazprom, a Russian state-owned enterprise, was transported through Ukraine. However, neither the foundational Nord Stream pipeline nor its planned successor run through Ukraine and Eastern Europe, giving Putin the ability to shut off gas for the bloc without affecting Germany.

Putin has a past record of such behavior. The Russian president has repeatedly shut off Ukraine's gas over accusations that they were siphoning energy intended for Western clients, leading to profound implications for the Eastern European state as well as the broader region.

For example, in 2014, amid a gas shortage spurred by Putin, "Ukrainian kindergartens, schools, and universities closed" and "remained closed [for days] amid fears that heating could be interrupted—nighttime temperatures dipped to minus 21 Celsius, or about minus 6 Fahrenheit," according to a report published by The Daily Signal.

The Russian president abated not because of Ukrainian pressure, but because the "cutoff led to immediate shortages from France to Turkey and underscored Moscow’s increasingly confrontational posture toward the West," as explained by The New York Times. Now that the Nord Stream pipelines will cut the Eastern bloc out of the equation entirely, Putin will be able to cut off gas supplies for Ukraine at his whim without fear of consequences for his European consumers.

Explaining this situation, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), a member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote that the Nord Stream "pipeline gets cheap Russian gas to Germany while bypassing smaller Eastern European nations, allowing Russia to pressure them while Germany is held harmless."

The senator proceeded to tear into Germany's complicity in permitting Nord Stream, writing that "[n]o amount of preening in Berlin will cover this nakedly selfish policy."

Cotton is correct: Through the Nord Stream projects, which ship gas through the Baltic Sea, Merkel is unfairly putting Ukraine and the Eastern bloc at risk of losing access to fuel. For a leader who is so intent on warning Trump against entanglements with Putin, shouldn't she look in the mirror?


Unfortunately, the problem doesn't just lie with Germany. Under President Emmanuel Macron, France has taken a similar turn, continuing -- and building on -- its friendly business relationships with Russia. According to the Central European Business Observer, "Despite the economic sanctions, France is the largest direct investor in Russia, and French companies have overtaken German companies in the conquest of the Russian market."

Macron and Putin

As France expands its Russian entanglements, the broader continent of Europe is becoming increasingly hooked to the Kremlin's energy. In January, Financial Times reported that "Russia's gas exports to Europe rose 8.1 per cent last year to a record level of 193.9bn cubic metres (bcm), despite rising competition and concerns about the country’s dominance of supply."

RT, the Kremlin's state media outlet, loves the scenario. They gleefully reported that if "Russian natural gas exports to Italy stop, the country will have only 15 days before an emergency situation," and that some will not even be this lucky: "Other countries in Europe are even more dependent on Russian gas than Italy or Germany, and will last even less than Italy’s two weeks."

As they support the Russian economy through energy purchases and investment, European nations have refused to meet their military spending commitments (even with U.S. pressure), essentially forestalling the establishment of a line of defense against the Kremlin's advances.

According to National Review, while "small Baltic nations have all increased their defense spending to 2 percent of their GDPs, a majority of NATO’s members, including Germany, the continent’s largest economy, have yet to meet that goal" (emphasis mine).

A report in POLITICO made the same assertion. Matthieu Borsboom wrote, "Too many European governments have been complacent about the ongoing security threats. Even after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, some continued to make cuts to their military budgets."

The scenario is as clear as day: European nations have allowed for Russia to flourish economically, and meanwhile, they refuse to expand their defenses against Russian aggression.

Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise to the European nations (and the broader NATO alliance) that President Trump is not happy about the situation. As he is being accused of being a confidante of Vladimir Putin, his administration is advancing far harsher policies against Putin than those established by any of his European counterparts.

When Trump says that "it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia," he is not inferring that he is allied with Putin against Europe; he is emphasizing the hypocrisy of nations that are aligned economically and militarily with the Kremlin.

If Merkel and other NATO heads-of-state don't want Trump to criticize them for being weak on Putin, they should follow one of Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life: "Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world."