Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the U.S. Navy can blockade Russia if needed to keep it from controlling energy supplies in the Middle East as it does in Europe.
"The United States has that ability, with our Navy, to make sure the sea lanes are open, and, if necessary, to blockade ... to make sure that their energy does not go to market," Zinke said on Friday at an industry event in Pittsburgh hosted by the Consumer Energy Alliance.
He was there to explain why hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the shale energy boom has given the U.S. an edge over its rivals Russia and Iran, by making the U.S. less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
"Russia is a one trick pony," Zinke said, explaining that its economy hinges on its ability to sell energy. "I believe the reason they are in the Middle East is they want to broker energy just like they do in eastern Europe, the southern belly of Europe."
The Trump administration has been adamantly opposed to Russian energy projects, such as the Nord Stream II pipeline to Germany, because of the leverage it would give over Europe. President Trump wants the European Union to buy more U.S. natural gas to diversify the continent's energy supply away from Russia.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry this week reiterated that sanctions against the pipeline are still an option if Russia does not remain a good neighbor to its European customers.
On Iran, the situation is very similar, Zinke explained. "National security-wise, how are you going to deal with Iran?" Zinke asked. "Well, there are two ways."
"There is the military option, which I would rather not. And there is the economic option," he added. "The economic option on Iran and Russia is, more or less, leveraging and replacing fuels."
"We can do that because ... the United States is the largest producer of oil and gas," Zinke said.