Lithuania purchased a large shipment of natural gas Monday from the U.S. to stick a finger in the collective eye of Russia, which has effectively monopolized energy production in former Soviet countries.
The move was likely a political tactic, one meant to show Lithuania and other former Soviet countries are willing to strike out against Russia. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 put the Baltic states on the defensive.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius described the natural gas purchase as a shot across Russia’s bow.
“We want to cement our relationship with the United States in many aspects in addition to defense and security, [and the] energy trade is one of the strategic areas for cooperation,” he told reporters Monday.
The country’s energy minister mirrored Linkevicius’ position, adding that Lithuania hopes that it might become commercially preferable to receive natural gas from the U.S. rather than Russia.
“We are happy to reach a point where importing gas from U.S. is not only politically desirable but also commercially viable,” Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said.
The U.S. has attempted to capitalize on the tensions between Russia and its former satellites. President Donald Trump told world leaders at a conference in July, for instance, that the U.S. wants to make it easier for companies to ship natural gas products to Eastern Europe. Trump signaled a willingness to break up Russia’s energy monopolization in Europe.
Trump’s position would limit the impact of Russia using energy as a weapon against European countries that stray from Putin’s bidding, James Jones, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, told reporters in July prior to the president’s address last month.
“I think the United States can show itself as a benevolent country by exporting energy and by helping countries that don’t have adequate supplies become more self-sufficient and less dependent and less threatened,” he said.
Other former Soviet countries have also received shipments of U.S. natural gas. Poland received its first tanker of U.S.-produced liquefied natural gas in June.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło attended the historic gas delivery and said that it was the country’s next step in increasing energy independence from Russia. Poland, which borders the Baltic sea, received 60 percent of its natural gas from Russia in 2013, while Europe pulled in about half of its gas imports from Russia.
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