- The Washington Times - Friday, July 7, 2006

American and European officials are pressing for an agreement on energy security with Russia at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg next week, which foreign policy specialists predict will fail.

Karen Harbert, assistant energy secretary for international affairs, stressed energy as a main theme for President Bush in the talks, including a bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We have a new energy environment and Russia needs to understand that there are certain responsibilities that go along with membership in the G-8. Russia needs to show commitment to democratic principles and rule of law that will make it a good place for investment,” Mrs. Harbert told reporters.

Other issues on the agenda, she said, include Russia’s commitment to democracy and its link to economic cooperation.

Mrs. Harbert insisted an agreement could be reached in St. Petersburg because the United States and Russia have the same interest in maximizing Russia’s energy exports.

Critics, however, say lack of a unified front from Europe on the issue and necessity for Russian cooperation on negotiations with Iran greatly limit the United States’ leverage to push Mr. Putin for reform.

Carlos Pascual, director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said, “It’s going to be hard to manage Russia in a world with many other problems in which we need them to play a key role.”

Edward Chow, a former headquarters manager for international affairs at Chevron Corp., said negotiations with Russia may be useless.

“Looking to Russia as a solution to a volatile market may not be the right answer. We clearly have different agendas. Maybe we should come back and talk when they or the market is in a better mood,” he said.

David G. Victor, an energy specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, “I don’t think that it’s that the two sides don’t understand one another. I think that we’ve reached a point of deadlock, and nothing will come out of the G-8 summit.”

Mr. Chow added that lack of European unity on the issue served as another handicap for the United States in the talks.

Johannes Linn, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, agreed that Russia won’t be enthusiastic about adjusting policies.

“Russia doesn’t see a win-win solution. Russia thinks the only way to increase its energy security is at the expense of others, like Ukraine. This will make it hard to find an energy policy that everyone can sign onto,” he said.

Recent concerns about global energy security arose in January, when Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom temporarily cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine over Ukrainian refusal to pay higher prices.

These actions prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. leaders to criticize Russia for using energy for political purposes.

Mr. Chow said the United States’ best hope at making progress with Russia is to court European support.

“Right now, Russia is getting mixed messages from Europe and can deal with different countries separately. The United States needs to work behind the scenes to promote a unified position on energy from Europe,” he said.

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