U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured Central and Eastern Europe in mid-November, touting America’s credentials and warning countries against deepening their ties to Russia. The visit was part of a new push by the Trump administration in a region where energy is part of a wider geopolitical rivalry.
Ostensibly arriving as a salesman for the U.S. liquified natural gas and nuclear industries, Perry signaled that Washington was ready to step up in a tussle that has long pitted Russia—with its vast gas resources and nuclear ties to former Soviet bloc countries—against the European Union. It’s a tussle that China is now angling to join.
The stakes are high. “We have to keep in mind our geopolitical orientation while investing into nuclear power,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said after meeting with Perry. The Czech government revealed in late October it has yet again delayed a tender on a nuclear energy plan, long in the works, to expand beyond its two existing nuclear power plants, if it can secure funding. The U.S. and Russia are both vying for the contract, along with China and other main nuclear suppliers.