H.E. Ambassador Virginia Palmer on Transatlantic Energy Security and Independence

by PAC Intern Kamila Magiera

What has Poland’s role been, how has COVID-19 shifted the playing field, and in what ways does energy affect geopolitics? 

On November 17, the Warsaw Institute in Warsaw, Poland hosted an event titled “Challenges For Energy Security: a Transatlantic Approach.” The event was moderated by Tomasz Kijewski, the Executive Director of the Warsaw Institute, and featured H.E. Ambassador Virginia Palmer, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Energy Sources at the U.S. Department of State. This 45 minute conversation focused on energy security in Central and Eastern Europe, geopolitics of energy, the Three Seas Initiative, and the effects of COVID on energy infrastructure in the United States, Europe, and around the world. 

Ambassador Palmer began by explaining and underlining the role energy plays in today’s world: global energy dynamics, transatlantic energy security, and Russia’s role in energy security. In addition, the Ambassador highlighted the changing playing field of energy due to COVID-19, noting that is has accelerated three geopolitical trends including US energy abundance for new cooperative relationships between consumers and producers (citing the oil demand collapse), the shift to renewable energy investments, and growing fragility of the global supply chain. 

Next, Ambassador Palmer reaffirmed the United States’ and Department of State’s commitment to the Three Seas Initiative (3SI), which she considers to be mutually transatlantically beneficial. The United States has long been a partner of 3SI, pushing it due to its role of being a mechanism for a more secure Central and Eastern European region. Not only does it modernize transportation and digital infrastructure, but also makes the energy market much more secure. Proving that the Three Seas Initiative is a top priority for the Department of State, Amb. Palmer notes Secretary Pompeo’s announcement of a $1 billion commitment in February that would be supported by the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and more recently, the 3SI Summit. This initiative has furthered Europe’s security, in addition to its growing independence in the last  five to ten years due to diversification. 

Ambassador Palmer commended Poland for its leadership in the energy independence movement, especially the US-Polish alliance. Poland has been a leader in connecting energy to the Balkans as well as Lituania, in addition to its strong opposition to NordStream2. The Ambassador notes that Poland was one of the first countries to recognize the intent of the Kremlin’s gas pipeline: to undermine Europe. Geopolitically, NordStream2 presents strategic vulnerabilities, which through the Kremlin has strong market leverage through energy consumers. For example, this has been seen in Ukraine, when the Kremlin cut off gas in 2006 and 2009. The gas pipeline was not set up for economic reasons, but rather geopolitical purposes. Ambassador Palmer sees this as an opportunity and challenge that the United States and its European allies must face to ensure the Kremlin does not continue to have geopolitical leverage.

To view more information about the event, visit: https://warsawinstitute.org/challenges-energy-security-transatlantic-approach-online-interview/

To watch the event, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGOCbDK7Hzc&t=12s

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