Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hit Russia Where It Hurts Flood the Market with Oil and Gas and Putin Will Wither

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hit Russia Where It Hurts Flood the Market with Oil and Gas and Putin Will Wither

Article excerpt

Future historians may recall Barack Obama's foreign policy as the Clash of the Cliches: Every time the president draws a red line, he winds up painting himself into the corner.

He did it with Syria, making bellicose threats he couldn't back up, and now he's done it with Ukraine. After Mr. Obama warned Russia to back off - "there will be consequences if people step over the line" - Vladimir Putin snorted in disdain and invaded the country anyway.

So what are the consequences? None in sight. Neither the United States nor anyone else is going to get into a war over who controls Crimea. And if Mr. Obama proposes economic sanctions, he'll find himself pretty much going it alone.

Russia, as the world's third-largest producer of both oil and natural gas, is just too important for most countries to play economic hardball with. The Western European nations who are most dismayed by Mr. Putin's adventuring in Ukraine are also the least able to do anything about it: More than a third of their natural gas is supplied by Russia.

Fortunately, Mr. Obama has some options that won't require him to ask Congress for a supplemental appropriation for red-paint thinner. Without risking a life or spending a penny, he can bring crushing pressure to bear on Mr. Putin. All he's got to do is borrow a page from Ronald Reagan's foreign-policy playbook.

Reagan's military confrontations with Mr. Putin's Soviet predecessors - the contras, the mujahedeen, Star Wars - are well known. But his most effective policy is less remembered: Reagan relentlessly jawboned Saudi Arabia to boost its oil production.

That increased supply and decreased prices, ripping the heart out of Moscow's oil-export business and sending its already shaky economy into a tailspin. Less than a decade later, the Soviet Union collapsed.

Mr. Obama can do the same thing to Mr. Putin, without even asking for help from Saudi Arabia. All he has to do is stop interfering with U.S. production of natural gas through fracking and stop blocking construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Fracking - short for hydraulic fracturing, a process that frees natural gas by injecting pressurized liquids into the ground - has been around since the 1940s. …

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