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Lawmakers move to limit US military use of Russian gas in Germany

A C-5 Galaxy rolls toward the runway at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. U.S. military bases in Europe rely heavily on Russian energy supplies to operate. Lawmakers are now putting more pressure on the Pentagon to find alternatives amid concerns that Russia could cut access in a crisis.

MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 2, 2018

STUTTGART, Germany — The Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would force the Pentagon to look for alternatives to Russian energy supplies in Germany, partly out of concern over a power source for a new U.S. military hospital that will receive aeromedical evacuees from combat zones.

The National Defense Authorization Act, which President Donald Trump is expected to soon sign into law, contains a provision that prohibits funds for acquiring energy at the new Rhine Ordnance Barracks Army Medical Center, which is set to replace Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southwest Germany, until the Pentagon certifies the source of the power.

The aim is to “minimize the use of fuels sourced from inside the Russian Federation,” the NDAA says.

The new medical center must use a diversified energy supply from a mixed-fuel system “to sustain mission critical operations during any sustained energy supply disruption caused by the Russian Federation,” the legislation says.

The bill also calls for using American energy supplies when possible.

The provision comes because of lawmakers’ concerns about a reliance on Russian-sourced supplies to power American bases in Germany, which depends heavily on Russian gas and oil imports that are likely to increase even more once the Nordstream 2 pipeline project is completed.

In a July 25 letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a bipartisan group of lawmakers also called on the Pentagon to develop a long-term plan for reducing the use of Russian energy supplies at overseas bases.

“As European partner nations struggle with the geopolitical challenge of overreliance on Russian energy, our military now has the chance to demonstrate leadership by strategically reducing our own usage of Russian energy,” said the letter, which was written by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

The lawmakers singled out the new Rhine Ordnance Barracks hospital as a point of concern.

“Although a nearby mixed-fuels system is available and has served American installations in the area for many years, military and civilian decision-makers are reportedly considering introducing a new generator, which would burn Russian-sourced natural gas,” the senators’ letter said. “In making decisions like this, DOD leaders should heavily consider the impact a future supply disruption could have on our operations alongside other factors like cost-effectiveness.”

In the future, the senators said, “all options must be discussed and reviewed, including partnering with local utilities and making long-term, strategic investments necessary to ensure the viability of mission critical operations.”

The new medical center, which is being built near Ramstein Air Base, is expected to be finished by the end of 2023 and operational by summer 2024.

The combined U.S. military medical facility will replace the 1950s-era Landstuhl Regional Medical Center — the largest overseas Defense Department hospital — and the Ramstein Air Base clinic.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

A construction information sign on the site where the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center, the replacement for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, is being built. The National Defense Authorization Act contains a provision that prohibits funds for acquiring energy at the new center, slated to open in 2023, until the Pentagon certifies the source of the power.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

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