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Biden was wrong to reverse Trump strategy aimed at reducing European dependence on Moscow for energy, former U.S. Amb. David Friedman tells Fox News

Europe's reliance on Russian gas makes setting sanctions on Putin rather tricky

The withdrawal of support by the Biden administration for an Israeli natural gas pipeline to Europe has emboldened Moscow to continue its aggression because Russians know that sanctions would impact not just themselves, but also the price of energy in Europe.

“Not only does energy fund the war and, perversely, the more Putin acts, the higher the price goes, the more he has money to operate,” David Friedman, America’s former ambassador to Israel, told Fox News on Sunday. “But the energy is also what emboldens Putin to know that there are limits to the U.S. and European response.”

This is exactly the type of scenario that former U.S. President Donald Trump was trying to avoid. Trump promoted the construction of the EastMed, an alternate natural gas pipeline that would run 1,900 kilometers under the Mediterranean from an Israeli natural gas field to Europe.

The EastMed pipeline “would have been yet another way the West could have cut off [Russian President] Vladimir Putin from control of Europe,” Friedman noted.

“They're talking about Swift right now… but even so, they’re saying, we only want to touch Swift to the extent that doesn't impact the energy markets. We're not going to sanction any transactions that involve energy," Friedman said. "So the West is telling Putin, ‘Look, we want to sanction you, but not to the extent that it impacts the ability of the U.S. or Europe to purchase your energy.’”

“What does that mean? It emboldens Putin. He knows that he has the resources to continue to prosecute this war for as long as he wants, and that’s very dangerous.”

Friedman said the Trump team believed that helping Israel, Greece and Cyprus with the pipeline would have lessened or eliminated the European Union’s dependence on Moscow for energy.

Friedman was authorized by Trump to voice U.S. support for the EastMed at a conference three years ago.

“It had the capacity, virtually the certainty, to reduce, if not eliminate, European dependency upon Russian energy,” Friedman said.

But the Biden administration reversed that policy, withdrawing its support in January.

“A month ago, Biden canceled the whole project. And he did so, purportedly because he thought natural gas was obsolete. And since this wasn’t going to get built until 2025 – which is really just around the corner in terms of the energy markets – he concluded, or his energy czar concluded, that this just wasn’t the kind of energy the United States wants to be in the business of.”

The pipeline was scheduled for completion by 2025 at an estimated cost of 6 billion euros and was projected to have the capability to transfer up to 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year from reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to Greece, and from there to Italy and other European countries. 

Under Trump, the pipeline enjoyed bipartisan support. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced legislation to reshape U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean and support the project.

Trump himself said on social media on Monday that if his energy policy had remained in place, the Russia-Ukraine war could have been avoided and "America would right now continue to have record-low gas prices, as it was under my administration, and we would be supplying the world with oil and gas."

Now, Europe relies on Russia for 43% of total gas imports. Much of that is through the Nord Stream pipeline. Trump vigorously opposed the construction of Nord Stream 2 saying it would increase Europe’s dependency on Russia. Biden, on the other hand, has been criticized for not doing enough to stop it.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended certification of Nord Stream 2 last week after Putin recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent republics in the build up to the invasion which took place days later.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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