Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I can see Gazprom from my house....
In the Vice Presidential debates of a few weeks ago, along with comments in various interviews, Sarah Palin has been most adamant about her foreign policy experience due to sharing a maritime border with Russia. This morning the New York Times posted an article saying that Russia's state energy company, Gazprom, is now pursuing exploration opportunities in Alaska.
This has some potential economic statecraft and national security implications for the United States. Russia currently supplies oil for much of Western Europe, and according to the article has been looking for ways to get into exploration in the US for several years. The idea is that Gazprom has experience in exploring for oil and natural gas that would help Alaska to develop its natural gas exploration and improve extraction techniques. With current talk of expanding offshore drilling in the US as well as the continuous need for more energy supplies, this could benefit the domestic economy, and increase the amount of natural gas Alaska produces for national consumption.
Is it possible that this could have negative implications along the lines of the Dubai Ports deal? My guess is that since this is Russia and not a Middle Eastern (and predominantly Muslim) nation, it will not garner the same negative feedback from Congress and the American populace at large as the Dubai Ports deal did. However, we do not claim to be on the best terms with Russia now, and many American minds still see American primacy stemming from the Cold War when we were bitter enemies with the Soviets. The American population as a whole may not take favorably to the idea of Russia poking around in our backyard.
We claim to be a nation in full support of free market ideologies and the benefits of competition for consumers. In the face of recent economic events, though, can we still tout those ideals? Would it be too much of a stretch for the federal government to put a stop to this venture as well, citing issues of national security and the safety of a strategic resource from Russian hands?
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few weeks and months, especially with the presidential election coming up. Perhaps this is a bid by Gazprom (and behind it, Putin) to see how far it can push the new president in order to find out how either McCain or Obama will respond to a new foreign policy issue. Who knows. Perhaps Sarah Palin's extensive experience in dealing with the her maritime neighbor will come in handy after all, and assist a new administration in carefully handling those tricky Russians.