The Biden administration has been talking with Qatar about the possibility of supplying liquefied natural (LNG) gas to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine, triggering shortages of energy in the continent.
Bloomberg citing two people familiar with the matter, revealed on Friday, Jan. 21, that President Biden plans to ask the Persian Gulf nation’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to visit the White House maybe later this month.
A White House official said a meeting between Biden and the Emir has been in the works for some time.
The report of the discussion emerged as Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops near its borders with Ukraine, pushing the Biden administration to warn about Russia’s potential invasion.
The Biden administration has been putting pressure on the Europeans to agree on a package of sanctions against Russia. However, some European countries have expressed fears that punishing Russia with harsh sanctions over the Ukraine crisis could wind up damaging their economies and prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to cut off or scale back gas supplies in the middle of winter.
Putin has denied that he plans to invade and is just demanding concessions and security guarantees from NATO that the military alliance says it cannot provide.
Russia is currently providing more than 40% of Europe’s LNG requirement. About a third of Russian gas is flowing to Europe through Ukraine.
In Europe, stockpiles of LNG are low as the continent grapples with a supply crunch.
White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese has said that the Biden administration is working with partners to step up fuel supplies to help ease Europeans’ concerns.
In an interview with Bloomberg on Jan. 20, Deese said that, in the very immediate term, the U.S.’s focus is on making sure that European countries have sufficient access to LNG to get through the winter months, and alleviate pressures in the spring as well.
“Very specifically, what that means is working with our allies and partners, particularly gas producing countries to to understand what additional capacity exists and how we could move and extend that capacity into the region,” he said.
Deese said that the U.S. itself does not have much to send.
“With respect to natural gas, our export capacity, we are at close to maximum export capacity. So what we can principally do is work with allies and try to identify and arrange ways to move more product in other ways,” he added.
Biden has hosted several leaders from the Middle East, including Iraq’s prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Qatar is one of the world’s biggest producers of LNG and currently supplies about 5% of Europe’s natural gas.