Trump urges eastern Europe to loosen Russia's grip with U.S. gas

By Wojciech Moskwa and Marek Strzelecki on 7/6/2017

WARSAW (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump encouraged eastern European leaders worried about their dependence on Russian energy to buy U.S. gas instead.

“If one of you need energy, just give us a call,” Trump told a gathering in Warsaw on Thursday. “The United States will never use energy to coerce your nations, and we cannot allow others to do so,” he said in an apparent slight to Russia, which has sometimes cut off gas shipments to its neighbors over pricing disputes.

Increased reliance on America’s fast-growing gas supplies would help lessen the impact of Russia, the source of about 75% of eastern Europe’s fuel, of using energy as a political weapon. Poland, the European Union’s largest eastern member, received its first shipment of American liquefied natural gas last month.

Trump was in Warsaw on Thursday to attend a meeting of the Three Seas Initiative, a project started last year that aims to strengthen trade, infrastructure, energy and political co-operation among 12 countries bordering the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea.

During a joint news conference with Trump, Polish President Andrzej Duda told reporters he’s hoping to sign a long-term supply agreement with U.S. companies “soon.” The U.S. leader replied that he can sign a deal “in 15 minutes” if needed, later reiterating that eastern Europe should never be “held hostage” to a single supplier.

Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since taking office at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg on Friday.

Poland’s ambitions go beyond reducing reliance on Russian energy. The NATO member is eager to build pipeline infrastructure in the region that would draw fuel, in part, from its LNG port in the Baltic Sea, as well as a planned plant off Croatia’s Adriatic coast.

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