More than 40% of Europe’s liquified natural gas (LNG) supply comes from Russia, and almost a third of the latter’s gas passes through Ukraine.
US officials have reportedly been in talks with leading LNG supplier, Qatar, to provide Europe with gas shipments in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, as Bloomberg reported citing sources with knowledge on the talks.
Two sources informed that US President Joe Biden is also planning on inviting Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to visit the White House this month, noting that the meeting has been in the works for some time.
The reports come amid fears of a new possible Russian invasion of Ukraine in the wake of heightened tensions between the two countries, after Moscow partially invaded Kyiv in 2014.
Concerns over an invasion increased late last year as Russia was seen dispatching its troops on its border with Ukraine.
Despite Russia denying plans of a military assaults on Ukraine, the US President directed the shipment of almost 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition, to Kyiv on Saturday.
“The shipment – and $2.7 billion USD since 2014 – demonstrates [the] US’ commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression,” read a tweet by the US embassy in Kyiv.
The first shipment of assistance recently directed by President Biden to Ukraine arrived in Ukraine tonight. This shipment includes close to
200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front line defenders of Ukraine. [1/2] pic.twitter.com/YeYanK0Px6
— U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) January 22, 2022
The shipment came after talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, in Geneva on Friday led to no significant breakthrough, though both sides maintained that they remain open to further dialogue.
The latest rise in tensions led to fear amongst some European countries over possible US sanctions being imposed on Russia, which could heavily impact Moscow’s supplies to the nations during the winter season.
Europe receives more than 40% of its gas supply from Russia whilst almost a third of its shipments pass through Ukraine. The region is already grappling with an energy crisis and escalations between Russia and Ukraine would further exacerbate it.
Qatar is one of the world’s biggest LNG producers and is currently moving towards becoming the world’s largest producer by 2030. The Gulf state provides up to 5% of Europe’s LNG supply as most of its shipments go to Asian countries.
On 14 January, Reuters reported that the US State Department was in talks with energy companies to shift around gas supplies to Europe.
Sources speaking on the condition of anonymity revealed that the discussions were led by senior advisor for energy security, Amos Hochstein.
“We’ve discussed a range of contingencies and we’ve talked about all that we’re doing with our nation state partners and allies,” the source said.
While a spokesperson for the US National Security Council did not comment on the matter, they confirmed to Reuters that contingency planning was underway.
Another person privy to the discussion told the Financial Times (FT) that talks over a potential long-term guarantee of LNG security have also been underway.
“In the short term it will be dependent on the willingness of other client countries to reroute and [the] availability of unallocated LNG,” the source told the news outlet.
“However, Qatar did reroute its supplies in 2011 for Japan after the tsunami hit so there’s precedent, but only if there’s a crisis,” added the source.
Qatar has been involved in a dispute with the European Union (EU) over a European Commission investigation in 2018, probing QatarEnergy’s companies impact on “the free flow of gas” within the European Economic Area (EEA).
In turn, Qatar halted projects in France and Belgium whilst placing its investments and LNG supplies to Europe on hold.
According to the FT, talks between Qatari and EU officials over the dispute have resumed as the latter needed to guarantee a long-term deal with the Gulf state to reduce its dependency on Russia in light of the latest events.
Russian pipeline at risk
There has been particular concern over the fate of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 project, an $11 billion pipeline built along the Baltic sea, which aims to transport natural gas from Moscow to Europe bypassing Ukraine.
The project would work alongside the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, providing gas from Russia to Germany. Moscow would also no longer require transit fees to deliver its gas through Ukraine.
A decrease in dependency on Ukraine to allow gas to pass through its territories means that Russia would not have to pay the $2 billion in transit fees.