The election of Donald Trump to the US presidency may bring about changes to Europe’s energy and foreign policies if the new American leader insists on pursuing a path leading to isolationism and warmer ties with Russia.
As for the Russian part of the equation, speculation of Trump’s close personal and business associations with the Kremlin has become widely known. The disclosure of Russia’s alleged intervention in the US elections, the objective being to push Trump to power, has stunned the political landscape worldwide.
If these developments are transformed into foreign policy then major shifts in balances of power can be expected in regions such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East and central Asia.
Trump’s ongoing disparagement of NATO is not an encouraging sign for countries of the former eastern bloc. They view Russia with hesitancy and need allies, Ukraine being an obvious example.
A change of energy market roles for Russia and Ukraine would severely impact Europe’s energy policy. For many years now, Ukraine’s extensive pipeline network has been used by Russia to transmit its natural gas to Europe. However, as a result of troubled relations between Moscow and Kiev, the Kremlin has sought strategic independence from Ukraine over the past decade or so. Russia has been promoting the development of new gas supply lines to Europe such as Nord Stream 1 and 2, South Stream and Turkish Stream, all of which bypass Ukraine.
Russian wants to establish itself as a gas supplier to Europe via a seamless network, which would enable the country to increase its supply and control both networks and the market.
The European Commission claims it wants reduce its Russian energy dependence, despite the fact that consumption has increased, as highlighted by market data for 2016.
Brussels essentially does not want Russia to develop new pipelines as it fears Europe’s influence on energy issues will diminish. Another European fear is that Ukraine will be completely abandoned to Russian intentions. Ukraine’s pipeline network is its most powerful bargaining tool opposite Russia. If Trump insists on a pro-Russia policy, prompting a US-Ukraine split, then Europe will be Ukraine’s only remaining ally.