New century, same tension

U.S. and Russia battle over European energy

BY JOE ZYLKA
NEWS EDITOR

By definition, the Cold War was a state of political and military tension that pitted the United States and its allies against the Soviet Union and its allies. Although there was never direct confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the Cold War lasted roughly from the end of the Second World War until 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Fast-forward to 2015, and tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union’s most powerful former state, Russia, have turned ice cold once again, but this time the battle is over Europe’s energy future.

Currently, Russia provides Eastern and Central Europe with most of their oil and gas supplies. According to a report by the Associated Press, the former Soviet states depend on Russia for over 75 percent of their energy needs.

This statistic is particularly alarming in Ukraine, where tensions are rising between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces, many of which have turned deadly.

“Diversify its (Ukraine’s) energy sources; no country should be held hostage to another nation that wields energy like a weapon,” said President Obama during a speech in the Estonian capital of Tallinn in September 2014.

The situation in Ukraine has prompted the U.S. and other Western European nations to begin setting up new gas pipelines across Southeast Europe and encouraging American oil companies to bid for nuclear power plants and fracking in Europe.

However, Moscow is not standing idly while the U.S. makes moves. Russia is buying up pipelines across Europe as well, and is also trying to influence what European nations do with their Russian oil once they get it. Russia also announced last year an $11.3 billion deal with Hungary, where the Russians will build two new reactors at an old power plant built during the Soviet Union.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden have traveled through Eastern Europe many times over the last few months to discuss possible energy deals in the near future.

ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SISK STAFF WRITER The United States and Russia are deadlocked in a new Cold War battle. The struggle has shifted from the fight for global influence to the fight for control of Europe’s energy future.

ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH SISK
STAFF WRITER
The United States and Russia are deadlocked in a new Cold War battle. The struggle has shifted from the fight for global influence to the fight for control of Europe’s energy future.

“The United States is prepared to help Bulgaria, which has made difficult decisions in order to try to protect its energy future,” Kerry said during a speech in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. “We are committed to try to help attract investment and provide assistance.”

Many Americans, including Schoolcraft student Eneida Ziraj, agree that Russia must stop using its oil and gas reserves as a way to bully the rest of Europe.

“I think Russia is being irrational,” said Ziraj. “If the U.S. has the power and the ability to change the situation in Europe, then they definitely should do it.”

With Russia forming a closer relationship with China because of Western sanctions, it will be interesting to see how this new installment of the Cold War shakes out. While this may not be an age-defining conflict like the Cold War, it may set the stage for how international relations will be in coming years.