Early into Barack Obama's first term as president, I made a plea for a new national security strategy based on what I called "Greengemony" - that America shore up its global primacy by becoming the world's first ever green hegemon.
The idea is that, by developing and adopting alternative energy supplies - and then selling America's eco-friendly power to its economic partners - the United States can break free of its dependence on fossil fuel autocracies and grow its national economy. In the process, America's allies and partners can significantly cut their geopolitical over-reliance as well.
Nowhere is this more evident these days than in Europe. Following Russia's military occupation of Ukraine's Crimea region, it's becoming abundantly clear that the European Union nations are not willing to take any aggressive actions against Russia out of fear that they will draw the ire of Vladimir Putin, who will exercise retribution by depriving the continent of vital gas and oil supplies. Currently, Europe receives approximately 25% of all the gas and oil it consumes from Russia. While the EU can certainly take a minor, short-term hit, over the long-run, being cut off from Russian energy could result in sharp political and economic costs.
No European country is arguably more vulnerable than Ukraine itself, which receives around two-thirds of its natural gas and oil from Russia. All Putin has to do is turn off the spigot, and the people of Ukraine will quickly find themselves in dire straits.
So what's the United States to do? For starters, the Obama administration needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario by developing a contingency plan that will provide its allies, especially Ukraine, with energy sources in the event Putin decides to play hardball. Already there has been talk of Ukraine reversing pipeline flows to import natural gas from Germany and Greece - which is a step in the right direction.
Looking at the middle-range, the West should continue to invest in fossil fuel extraction from allied countries. It's possible, for instance, that in just a few years, Ukraine might be in a position to replace Russia as the top exporter of natural gas to the EU. Given Putin's penchant for stirring trouble on the world stage, this would be a great way to break free of the leverage he currently has over the region.
But nothing would better serve the United States in the long-term than if it invested in clean, green energy production. If the United States is serious about undermining the power of Russia to wreak havoc in the future, then it needs to adopt a strategy of Greengemony. Going green is the best way to leave Putin in the red.