Robert Harneis –TDO- (France)-  Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has said that the U.S. Navy can blockade Russia if necessary to keep it from controlling energy supplies in the Middle East as it does in Europe.

"The United States has that ability, with our Navy, to make sure the sea lanes are open, and, if necessary, to blockade ... to make sure that their energy does not go to market," Zinke said on Friday at an industry event in Pittsburgh hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance according to the Washington Examiner.

He was there to explain why hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the shale energy boom has given the U.S. an edge over its rivals Russia and Iran, by making the U.S. less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

"Russia is a one trick pony," Zinke said, explaining that its economy hinges on its ability to sell energy. "I believe the reason they are in the Middle East is they want to broker energy just like they do in eastern Europe, the southern belly of Europe."

Zinke’s statements provoked an angry response from Moscow, which equated a potential maritime blockade to an “act of war,” while calling the internal secretary’s assumptions “nonsense.”

“A US blockade of Russia would be equal to a declaration of war under international law,” Russian Senator Aleksey Pushkov said, commenting on Zinke’s words. Russia does not currently export any energy to the Middle East, which itself is a major oil exporting region. The whole idea is an “absolute nonsense,” the Senator commented.

The Trump administration, like its predecessors, has been strongly opposed to Russian energy projects, such as the Nord Stream II pipeline under the Baltic sea to Germany, because of the supposed leverage it would give over Europe. President Trump wants the European Union to buy more U.S. natural LNG gas to diversify the continent's energy supply away from Russia.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry this week reiterated that sanctions against the pipeline are still an option if Russia does not remain a good neighbor to its European customers.

U.S. hopes of exporting LNG gas by tanker to Europe are doomed to failure mainly because it is some 30% more expensive than Russian gas. Equally there are doubts about the reliability of US supply in times of shortage. It is noteworthy that last winter the U.S. itself had to import LNG gas from Russia during the exceptionally cold weather.

U.S. attempts to interfere in European energy arrangements are resented, particularly in Germany. Germany’s leading organization for industry, the Federation of German Industries (BDI), has called on the US to stay away from the EU energy policy and the bilateral agreements between Berlin and Moscow.

“I have a big problem when a third state interferes in our energy supply,” Dieter Kempf, head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) said following a recent meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Europeans have noticed that U.S. attempts to sabotage Nordstream 2 are accompanied by shameless purchases of Russian equipment when it suits Washington, including rocket engines, anti forest fire aircraft and helicopters in Afghanistan.

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