So there’s an example of a good thing we can do to really hit Russia where it hurts – all while buoying U.S. businesses and the American economy in the process. Russia is essentially a petrol state – much like Iran and Libya – with over half of the government’s spending derived from oil and natural gas revenue. Specifically, Russia is one of the largest natural gas producers in the world, second only to the United States. Eroding Russia’s natural gas export market could be one of the most effective ways to squeeze Putin.
But instead of focusing on the good things, which, in this case, also happen to be the “easy” things, this administration continues to veer down the wrong paths, often without the left hand knowing what the right hand is up to.
The lack of coordination across the various segments of the administration is becoming a problem. Right now, as the White House continues to search for a way forward on Russia, the administration’s own Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is actively debating whether it ought to impose sweeping new foreign payment disclosure rules on U.S.-listed oil and gas firms that state-owned giants like Gazprom wouldn’t need to follow.
As the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Some Senators who dislike fossil fuels—such as Maryland's Ben Cardin —are still hoping the SEC will turn the screws harder on American companies. These folks should have to explain how undermining U.S. competitiveness, and handing an advantage to the likes of Mr. Putin, is in anybody's interest.” Thankfully, SEC’s attempt to do just that last year was rejected by a federal court. But the agency is back at it again, and you can bet the folks in Moscow are paying very close attention to what it decides.
No one is saying the administration has a ton of great options available to it when it comes to dealing with an actor like Russia. But, among the options it does have at its disposal, it’s obvious that some of those are better than others. Is it too much to ask for the administration to start focusing on those? And not the ones that end up harming us more than the country we’re supposed to be targeting?