Hillary Clinton puts energy security high on transatlantic agenda
By Brian Beary in Washington | Wednesday 14 January 2009
As EU anxiety over the security of its imported gas mounts in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine dispute, the next US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has said this matter will be a priority in her dealings with Europe. “We need a broader framework to talk about energy security” with the EU and Russia, Clinton told US senators in Washington, on 13 January, at her confirmation hearing. She plans to have the issue discussed during her initial visits to Europe as secretary of state - both with EU foreign ministers and at the NATO summit, in April.
“It is a significant security challenge that we ignore at our peril,” she said, responding to concerns raised by Republican senators about the growing influence Russia is having on Europe due to its control of energy supplies. Clinton announced she would create an energy security coordinator within the State Department to work with Europe to try to make it less vulnerable to interruptions in energy supply. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Europe of having mishandled the issue, saying “we are more worried about their energy problems than they are”. He asked Clinton if she supported invoking Article 5 of the NATO Charter - which says an attack on one member is an attack on all - should countries cut off supplies. Clinton was non-committal, saying it “may or not be” the solution.
PRAGMATISM, NOT IDEOLOGY
The Senate’s confirmation of the former first lady as Washington’s top diplomat looked certain, as she gave a confident performance that was warmly received by her Senate colleagues. Outlining her future vision, Clinton said “foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principle and pragmatism, not rigid ideology”. She added that “we will lead with diplomacy [...] But we also know that military force will sometimes be necessary”. Turning to Europe, the New York senator said “our traditional relationship of confidence and trust with Europe will be deepened. Disagreements are inevitable, even among the closest friends, but on most global issues we have no more trusted allies”.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Clinton reiterated America’s steadfast support for Tel Aviv, saying “we are deeply sympathetic to Israel’s desire to defend itself”. As for the Palestinians, she said she would not negotiate with Hamas unless they renounced violence, recognised Israel and promised to abide by past agreements, adding this position “is absolute”. In Afghanistan, she advocated a “more for more” policy, meaning if the US decided to send in more forces, its NATO allies should do likewise. She was especially keen to boost civilian and development operations in Afghanistan. On Iran, she said “what we tried has not worked” but that it had not yet been decided if she personally would engage Tehran - or Syria for that matter. On Iraq, Clinton said the US would begin withdrawing troops in June 2009. n