Trump likes the idea because he thinks it’s an opportunity to sell more liquified natural gas, or LNG, from America’s shale patch.
“Whenever you need energy, just give us a call,” Trump told the assembled representatives of the Central and Eastern European countries that have signed onto the TSI. “The United States will never use energy to coerce your nations,” he added, in a not-so-veiled reference to the dozens of times since 1991 that Russia has curtailed energy supplies to cow neighbors.
Last month the first U.S. cargo of LNG arrived in Poland arrived. Croatia is working to construct a similar terminal in the Adriatic soon, which could help supply southern Europe. (The Black Sea is a bit tougher, at least within the TSI: Only Ukraine, which isn’t part of the club, has a gas import terminal there.)
But America’s international gas trade is business, not politics. Any “LNG projects will happen on a commercial basis,” said Piotr Buras, head of the European Council of Foreign Relations’ Warsaw office. In many cases, it is cheaper to ship Russian gas from Siberia to nearby countries via pipeline than it is to supercool the gas and ship it halfway around the world, though LNG prices have cratered in Europe and Asia.
When Polish President Andrzej Duda expressed hope that his country and U.S. firms would sign LNG deals soon, Trump responded, “Maybe we get your price up a little bit.”
In any event, U.S. support for alternative supplies of energy in Europe is nothing new — it’s been Washington’s line for years, and U.S. natural gas in particular was seen as a lifeline for Europe (as well as Asia).
More troubling, some say, is Trump’s willingness to support the year-old TSI, which reanimates an almost century-old semi-authoritarian plan to unite the people caught between Germany and Russia under Polish leadership. Known then as the “Intermarium,” the concept was first proposed by Jozef Pilsudski, the military dictator who dominated Polish politics between Worlds Wars I and II.