House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) rightly called for the immediate easing of restrictions against the export of U.S. natural gas to Ukraine this week.
Currently, exporting natural gas to most countries requires a lengthy and arduous Department of Energy approval. In a statement the Speaker said:
Ending this de facto ban and expediting approval of natural gas exports is one clear step the U.S. can take to stand by our allies and stand up to Russian aggression, while creating American jobs at the same time.
Natural gas should be treated like any other good in the U.S., being sold to whoever wants to buy it. In clearing the way for American natural gas exports to flow to Ukraine, the United States can help ease Ukrainian reliance on Russian natural resources. The move would also lessen the impact of any potential move by Russia to use the dependence of Ukraine on Russian energy to extract concessions that legitimize what is an illegal act against the sovereign state of Ukraine.
U.S. natural gas exports would have the further benefit of helping to create a freer market for energy in Ukraine. Ranked a dismal 155 in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom (published jointly by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal), Ukraine desperately needs structural changes that embrace free markets and free enterprise. Only in this way can the nation stamp out the corruption and cronyism that have held back honest governance in the nation.
In addressing the Ukrainian crisis, the U.S. needs strategically considered responses that use the multitude of tools at the nation’s disposal. A strong response would send a clear message to Moscow that aggression is unacceptable and show our allies in the region that the U.S. can be counted on to stand by our commitments. Winston Churchill’s advice in 1946 still rings true today:
Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere waiting to see what happens; nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement.
Boehner’s suggestion to lift restrictions on natural gas exports to Ukraine can show Russia that the U.S. will stand resolutely against aggression. Congress and the President should seriously consider his proposal.