A MAJOR DEVELOPMENT IN EUROPEAN GEOPOLITICS? Back in the 1980’s, I attended a seminar in which great importance was attached to Russian natural gas. The prediction was made that Russia’s enormous reserves of natural gas and Europe’s need for natural gas would give Russia increasing sway in Europe in the 21st century. Up to now that prediction has held true. This wikipedia article (albeit a controversial one) points out that the European Union imports nearly half of its natural gas and cites a paper which describes how “Russia is consolidating its grip on oil and gas in Europe.” This wikipedia article (albeit a controversial one) describes the effect of disputes between Ukraine and Russia. For example, in January 2009, a dispute “resulted in 18 European countries reporting major falls or cut-offs of their gas supplies from Russia transported through Ukraine.” Now, the Lex column in the Financial Times reported on November 2 that the glut in natural gas in the United States has caused liquefied natural gas shipments to be redirected to Europe with the consequence that the spot price for natural gas in Europe is now lower than the price established in long-term contracts with Gazprom, the Russian exporter of gas. This study done in May from Rice University discusses the possible role of shale gas in curbing Russia’s ability to organize an “energy weapon” against European consumers. If the United States now has enormous reserves of natural gas, the stranglehold that Russia has had on European natural gas, with the political power it has given Russia, will be reduced. Try to imagine Russia being nice to its neighbors because it needs them as customers.

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