Hundreds of Poles cheered as President Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration was committed to securing Poland’s energy independence from Russia.
Eastern Europe has long been under Russia’s thumb when it comes to energy. Poland and its neighbors see Trump’s arrival as a strong signal that Russia’s gas monopoly over the region could be broken.
“To the citizens of this great region, America is eager to expand our partnership with you,” Trump told a lively Warsaw crowd gathered to hear him speak Thursday.
“We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies,” Trump said. “And we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.”
Trump’s remarks come two days before he’s set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia’s state-owned energy giant, Gazprom, is the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe.
Trump spoke with Polish President Andrzej Duda about increasing energy trade. The Trump administration has called for more liquefied natural gas (LNG) to help the U.S. economy and give Poland a viable alternative to Gazprom.
Trump also spoke with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic about natural gas exports. The White House said that Trump “expressed support for timely completion of the Krk Island liquefied natural gas facility,” according to ABC News.
Poland is a prime candidate for U.S. gas exports. Poland imports 70 percent of its natural gas, most of which comes from Russia.
The first U.S. shipment of LNG arrived in Poland in June, and more could be on the way as the U.S. and Poland approve more energy infrastructure. Poland will not renew its contract with Gazprom to import gas once it expires in 2022.
However, challenging Russia’s energy dominance won’t be easy. The Trump administration’s effort to block a new Russian pipeline from being built is already increasing tensions with Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel backs a $10 billion expansion to a pipeline that would bring gas from Siberia to Germany. It’s part of Merkel’s plan to to fight global warming by reducing her country’s reliance on coal and nuclear power.
Germany already gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, but other European countries worry that Merkel’s push for more gas will only tighten Putin’s grip over the continent’s energy supplies.
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