Washington – There’s an old adage that all politics is local. That hasn’t been lost on Sen. Chris Murphy.
Connecticut’s junior senator has just returned from a weekend trip to Eastern Europe, where he attended the inauguration of new Ukrainian President Petro O. Poroshenko in Kiev. He was part of an eight-member U.S. delegation that included Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Murphy said he found Poroshenko impressive.
But the senator said the most interesting part of the trip was the last stop, in Bulgaria, where delegation members urged government officials to stop work on a pipeline that would allow Russia to transport its natural gas to Europe.
“Continued Russian dominance in the energy sector poses a threat to U.S. and Connecticut companies that do business with European companies,” Murphy said in a statement.
He later explained to reporters that Russian natural gas was competing against Connecticut alternative energy and fuel cell companies who hope to sell their technology to Europeans.
If Russian natural gas is plentiful and cheap, “there’s less incentive for European companies to invest in renewables,” Murphy said.
He also said Russia is “quietly discounting” its contracts to European “to keep them hooked.”
The delegation’s visit may have helped change the Bulgarians’ mind about the pipeline.
Soon after the U.S. –Bulgarian meeting, Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski announced he had “ordered all work to be stopped.”
Murphy credited “yeoman’s work” by the State Department for the change of heart and said “to my knowledge [the U.S. government] did not make any threats or offers.”
The delegation also visited Romania, which a European Union report says has a “breathtaking” amount of corruption. Romania’s former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, was sent to jail for four years for taking bribes.
By meeting with anti-corruption officials, Murphy said the delegation “sent a pretty clear message.”
He also said the U.S. delegation was welcomed as heroes in Kiev. After Poroshenko’s inauguration, the delegation walked through a crowd to an inaugural luncheon, and were greeted by “rhythmic chants” of “thank you, thank you, thank you,” Murphy said.