18 countries ranging from large European Union members, including Germany to small ex-Soviet Moldova, have been affected by Russian quasi-governmental gas giant Gazprom’s cut in natural gas supplies to Ukraine. Gazprom has become synonymous with energy intimidation and has specifically targeted former Soviet states such as Ukraine as it seeks to carve out a Russian-dominated sphere of influence in its near abroad.

Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Sally McNamara looks at steps Europe must take to prevent future incidents:

Although Russia has, until now, tended to be a reliable energy supplier to Western Europe, Europe cannot afford to stand idly by and hope that Moscow will play fair in the future. This is all the more pressing considering first, that Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow is growing, and second, that Moscow has a head-start on Europe in negotiating pipeline deals that will tighten its grip on East-West transit routes.

Europe cannot allow itself to be boxed into a corner when dealing with Moscow on important foreign policy questions (such as NATO enlargement) because it is scared of Russia turning off the energy taps. The EU’s obsession with making ever-bolder promises on cutting carbon emissions has resulted in a European energy policy that is far too focused on unrealistic targets to address climate change at the expense of seriously addressing energy security. Europe must now diversify its supply routes and seek reliable alternate sources of energy such as nuclear power. It must also coordinate a policy toward Russia that confronts, rather than accommodates, an increasingly aggressive Moscow.

Heritage Senior Research Fellow Ariel Cohen recommends a U.S. course of action:

  • Support European diversification of energy transporta­tion routes in Eurasia. Specifically, the U.S. should support the construc­tion of the Nabucco pipe­line which would bring gas from the Caspian basin, via Azerbaijan and Georgia, to Europe. The U.S. should oppose any excessive dependence of its allies on Russian energy exports and should encourage application of the European anti-trust legislation against Gazprom.It will also be necessary to encourage EU members to establish and implement a joint policy on their dealing with Moscow in the energy sector.
  • Encourage Europe to construct more liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, importing gas from Qatar, Algeria, and Nigeria, thus diversifying the sources of gas. Moreover, Germany, Italy, and other countries in Europe should be encouraged to develop coal, nuclear power, and competitive renewables as sources of affordable electricity.
  •  Support Ukraine’s efforts to modernize its energy sector, including reforms to increase transparency and energy efficiency, privatize and liberalize oil and gas sectors, depoliticize management, and decisively remove middlemen in energy transactions.