America can’t ignore the national security concerns tied to the LNG freeze


As former national security advisor to President Obama and former supreme allied commander of NATO, I am compelled to call attention to the significant national security ramifications involved in the administration’s decision to pause new U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export licenses.

Stated simply, the LNG permit pause is a boost to Vladimir Putin and his persistent quest for leverage against our European allies and the transatlantic community. Putin has long used Europe’s dependence on Russian gas as a weapon of manipulation and extortion for geostrategic advantage. In turn, he has funneled his energy revenue into propping up his morally bankrupt government and for sowing instability around the world culminating in his savage invasion of Ukraine and threats against broader Europe.

Last year, U.S. exports of LNG totaled 86 million tons, with the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany — key NATO allies — accounting for more than half of that volume. With Eastern Europe gripped by war, limiting America’s critical LNG lifeline downstream is a gut punch to our partners — one warmly welcomed by Putin knowing what it could mean.

As Eurogas President Didier Holleaux puts it, this LNG embargo could “spark a new period of price volatility in Europe,” undermining the significant work it took for Europe to slash dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds in the past two years alone. Now substantially freed from Putin’s grip, a long-term LNG permit embargo could eventually put America’s allies right back into Russia’s energy crosshairs.  

Make no mistake, the resilience and energy security of NATO allies are squarely in the U.S. national security interest, particularly in these precarious times — without ignoring or diminishing the importance of working diligently and globally to meet the severe challenges posed by climate change.

Measured in both security and climate objectives, America’s allies in Asia have much to lose as well. Not only will restraints on U.S. LNG exports likely result in Asian buyers, including key allies, to resort to supplies from Russia but ironically decreased market volume would jeopardize Asia’s climate goals. 

As Asian Natural Gas and Energy Association President Paul Everingham wrote to Energy Secretary Granholm, “Energy security and the energy transition will be elusive for the people of Southeast Asia” under limited LNG exports.

That’s because burning gas, as opposed to the coal that has long fueled Asian economies, results in about half the greenhouse emissions. The real-world cause and effect of U.S. actions in this regard must be carefully evaluated given that climate policy is the countervailing consideration to the adverse geostrategic implications. What is certain is that global malefactors will be ready to pounce if this moratorium stands. Russia expects a new major LNG export facility to come online this year, and Iran expects to do the same in coming years.  

The stakes are high. America can’t afford to underestimate the boost to Putin’s long-term ambitions and the potential geopolitical impacts of limiting the United States’ ability to help promote the energy security and resilience of our allies. We can’t wish away the potential that U.S. supplies will be supplanted by Russian and Iranian LNG, and worse for the environment, backtracking from the LNG bridge to a low carbon future to greater reliance on coal. 

As the administration and Congress evaluate this policy, our leaders must heavily weigh these factors, the significant geopolitical ramifications and what this could mean for friends and allies whose resilience and security are closely tied to our own.

Gen. Jim Jones, founder of Jones Group International, served as the 21st U.S. national security advisor during the Obama administration. A retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general, Jones also served as the 32nd commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and supreme allied commander of NATO. 

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