Earlier this week Lithuania took a major step towards reducing its energy dependence on Russia. On Monday, the first LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) shipment arrived from the United States, marking the first time an ex-Soviet state has purchased and imported US natural gas. The shipment is viewed as a symbolic economic, and geopolitical act. Economically, the shipment is proof of Lithuania’s wish to cut its reliance on Russia for most of its energy needs. Importing US natural gas now, as well as Norwegian gas, puts Moscow on notice that Vilnius has alternative sources of energy available.
Geopolitically, this shipment is a strong indication of the US-Lithuanian relationship, and the significance both sides put on these relations as the security situation in the Baltics remains fluid. Helping to diminish Europe’s reliance on Russian gas has become an important policy objective for the United States. In the weeks since President Trump’s visit to Warsaw and the G20 summit in Hamburg energy assistance for Eastern Europe and the Baltics has taken on a higher priority. The Trump administration is finally grasping the importance of energy geopolitics in the current chess match with Russia.
For the moment, US LNG imports are not a threat to Russia’s firm grip on Lithuanian energy markets. This year Gazprom, the Russian energy conglomerate, has regained half of Lithuania’s natural gas market. Until the numbers of LNG shipments from the US and other energy sources rises considerably, Russia can focus its attention on other aspects of the increasingly complex, and tense geopolitical landscape in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.