Got Strategic Partnership? Use It!

The U.S. Ambassador to Germany, William Timkin, has chimed in on the Russia energy debate, providing the Germans with a gentle reminder that they are absolutely instrumental in playing a leading role in helping bring Russia around to an equitable and rule-based energy relationship with Europe. That’s a pity – despite how much sense Timkin makes, Germans will likely be motivated to do exactly the opposite of whatever the U.S. Ambassador recommends… The IHT:

With Germany now holding the presidency of the European Union and the G-8 group of industrialized countries, Timkin said there was an opportunity for the countries involved to make some headway on energy security: “We have a shared interest in demonstrating that energy security is not just another slogan but a product of responsible partnership.” That meant, he added, trying to “institutionalize Russia’s state commitment to these goals.” Timkin suggested that Germany could play a special role in supporting “ever-greater Russian convergence with the goals of international institutions” because Berlin had a longstanding policy to develop a working relationship with Russia through a strategic partnership. “That strategic partnership with Moscow, especially in the energy sector, affords the opportunity to engage in discussions about transparent and rational market structures,” he said. He added that Russia’s standoff with Ukraine in 2006 and Belarus this year, in which energy deliveries to both countries were halted over a price dispute that led to shortfalls in some European countries, showed the necessity and importance of transparency in energy markets. “Under a worst-case scenario, oil and natural gas will be the currency through which energy-rich countries leverage their interests against import-dependent nations,” Timkin warned. “We have seen examples of this in Iran and Venezuela. Some have concerns about Russia. By consultation and dialogue, Russia can allay those concerns.”