A Russian pundit recently argued that NATO should build a monument honoring the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for reviving its potency. But even more eager to do so should be the U.S. coal and nuclear energy industries. Benighted Republicans, however, are missing a golden opportunity to spearhead a drive on these issues, which face considerable opposition from the American President.
Writing in the Moscow Times, the brilliant and courageous Russian defense industry analyst Alexander Golts opines that Putin has “given NATO functionaries and military personnel plenty of work for what I am afraid might be a very long time to come.” Golts notes that NATO had an “identity crisis” that Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine has instantly rectified.
Indeed, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, recently tweeted a brutal shot across Putin’s bow, stating: “Russians keep making stuff up.” Among other things, Vershbow openly accuses the Putin regime of lying about an alleged pledge not to expand NATO. We haven’t seen this kind of fortitude and vigor from NATO in many a moon. And we have Mr. Putin to thank for it!
NATO is not the only one, of course, experiencing an “identity crisis.” The coal and nuclear industries have one too. Due to alleged environmental risks, coal and nuclear power have been losing traction for some time, to such “cleaner” alternatives as natural gas, which Russia has in abundance.
But in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine, it’s pretty easy now to see that coal and nuclear power have many points in their favor. Unfortunately, this isn’t an area where NATO’s military resolve means much. Political will is required to bring coal and nuclear power to the playing field in order to roll back Europe’s reliance on Russian oil.
In fact, energy analyst Joe Parson thinks that acquiring Ukraine’s vast eastern coal fields is an important reason why Putin is menacing his smaller neighbor. Putin would kill two birds by doing so: First he would significantly increase Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas and oil, and second he would acquire stockpiles of coal that could be used to offset a Western effort to use coal as a bulwark against Russian oil and gas.
William B. Reed, founder and chairman of System Controls Inc., believes that coal and nuclear power could be “huge assets in demonstrating U.S. resolve to limit Russian ambitions.” He writes: “Coal can substitute for natural gas in electricity production, and it will continue to play a large and indispensable role in Europe under any scenario. Ramping up U.S. coal exports to Europe could make a real difference in countries like Poland, Hungary and Ukraine that are heavily dependent on Russian gas.” The U.S. can do the same thing, he says, in regard to providing nuclear power.
What’s more, Reed argues, as the world’s leading producer of gas and oil the U.S. can help take up the slack in Europe should Russia seek to weaponize such resources.
But when we turn to the White House, we see that Barack Obama is once again a toxic presence. Not only has Obama shown no backbone at all in dealing with Putin’s initial wave of aggression in Ukraine, his administration’s hostility to coal and nuclear power place further roadblocks in the path of any opposition to further aggression by Putin.
This gives Republicans a brilliant opportunity to both support the coal and nuclear power industries and hit Obama with criticism that will bite, while simultaneously seizing the leadership role on opposition to Russian aggression.
But will they be able to see and act upon this opportunity?
Recent events don’t seem encouraging. Republicans have not done a good job calling Obama on the carpet for his feckless dithering on Ukraine. He has made no military response, provided hardly any economic support, and imposed only the most limp-wristed of sanctions. Worse still, he hasn’t even had the courage to engage in a real rhetorical battle with Putin, nor has he put much effort into galvanizing Europe.
But the Republican response has been disorganized, muted and not much more inspiring. The GOP doesn’t appear to have a leading figure on the foreign policy front, even though the Russian analysis of John McCain, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney has been vindicated by recent events.
Republicans should be forcefully moving forward with specific plans to help the U.S. coal and nuclear industries become major players in the European pushback against Putin. No thinking person can dispute that Europe must wean itself away from Russian gas and oil, or that Ukraine must be made energy independent of Russia as a matter of global priority.
Achieving this will dramatically curtail Putin’s power both directly and indirectly. Firstly he’ll no longer be able to directly threaten Ukraine and Europe with energy blackmail, and secondly he’ll see the price of oil and gas fall as demand is reduced, thereby significantly cutting into Russian budgetary revenues and reserves. This will put massive pressure on him domestically, and he’ll be forced to turn inward, away from Europe and Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the income of American companies will rise, jobs will be created and tax revenues added to Washington’s coffers. And at the same time, Republicans will gain significantly in credibility with voters.
It’s a win-win-win situation, in other words, and its time for Republican leaders to wake up and do their jobs.