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As Europe’s Energy Crisis Looms, Biden Will Meet With Qatar’s Leader. Latest Update!

President Joe Biden is receiving Qatar’s governing leader at the White House on Monday, hoping for the gas-rich country to step up once more to assist the West as it faces the threat of a European energy crisis if Russia invades Ukraine further.

Qatar aided last summer’s US military evacuations of Afghan assistance and US citizens from Afghanistan, maintains the largest American airbase in the Middle East and has worked as a go-between with the Taliban for the last three US administrations as they attempted to wind down America’s longest conflict.

With some 100,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, analysts believe Qatar, the world’s second-largest supplier of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is willing to aid Biden once again, but may only be able to do so to a limited extent if Russia continues to impede energy supplies to Europe.

As Europe's Energy Crisis Looms, Biden Will Meet With Qatar's Leader. Latest Update!
As Europe’s Energy Crisis Looms, Biden Will Meet With Qatar’s Leader.

“After Afghanistan, Qatar views this as a chance to further enhance its ties with the US,” said Year Al-Maleki, a Middle East Institute energy economist in Washington.

“However, because there isn’t an abundance of supplies, it will be quite difficult.”

Qatar is already operating at full capacity, with much of its output going to Asia under contract.

According to energy specialists, even if major US Pacific allies such as India, Japan, and South Korea are convinced to redirect some LNG purchases committed to Europe, it will only have a little influence in easing the shock.

Biden and Qatar’s reigning emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, will also address Middle East security and the situation in Afghanistan, where humanitarian circumstances have deteriorated since the US military departure and Taliban control last year, according to the White House.

The most serious issue on their agenda, though, is developing contingency preparations in case Russia decides to shut off gas supplies to Europe.

Last week, natural gas futures prices soared on mounting market concerns that a possible conflict may hamper Russian deliveries to Europe via Ukraine.

Russia, which generally supplies around 40% of Europe’s natural gas, has exacerbated the crisis by cutting shipments by roughly 25% in the fourth quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, despite high global prices.

If Russia invaded Ukraine, the US and its European allies would almost certainly retaliate with economic penalties.

This might result in worldwide oil and gas shortages, as well as, most likely, increased energy costs, causing global economic tremors.

Even while the Biden administration has warned that military action might be “imminent,” Russia has stated repeatedly that it has no intention of invading Ukraine.

Concerns that Russia would shut off European gas supplies have been rejected by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as “false panic.”

Officials from the Biden administration praised Qatar for supporting the United States military in evacuating thousands of Americans and Afghans at the tumultuous end of the American conflict with the Taliban.

Qatar continues to provide passenger aircraft for Afghans and Americans fleeing Taliban rule, as well as serving as a transit point for the US as it processes visas for thousands of individuals fleeing Taliban authority.

In Kabul, Qatar’s ambassador personally accompanied convoys of refugees to the airport to assure their safety.

Last year, Biden informed al Thani in a private phone call that the Afghanistan evacuation “would not have been feasible without the early cooperation from Qatar to allow the passage of thousands of people daily,” according to the White House.

During a visit to Doha in September, Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked, “Many countries have stepped up to support the evacuation and relocation efforts in Afghanistan, but no country has done more than Qatar.”

According to the State Department, Blinken discussed the Russian force increase with Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani last week.

Following the challenges with President Donald Trump, the relationship has improved. The Republican Party-backed a boycott on Qatar imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt in 2017.

Trump also accused Qatar of being a “very high level” terrorist financier, but then changed his mind on the boycott.

Qatar has been accused by Saudi Arabia and other neighbours of allowing or even promoting assistance for extremist organisations such as al-Syria Qaida’s branch, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas.

The Biden administration claims that the contingency plan, which is still being developed, would not rely just on “one or two” suppliers. According to a senior Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the attempt would require “much lesser amounts from several sources” to compensate for a Russian cutoff.

As Europe's Energy Crisis Looms, Biden Will Meet With Qatar's Leader. Latest Update!
As Europe’s Energy Crisis Looms, Biden Will Meet With Qatar’s Leader.

Biden administration officials have looked to suppliers in Australia, the world’s largest LNG provider, as well as Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United States, for assistance if needed.

In a joint statement released Friday, Biden and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they were working to secure “an adequate and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from varied sources throughout the world to minimise supply disruptions” while they develop contingency preparations.

Qatar and the United States LNG export facilities, which turn gas into liquid form so it can be transported over long distances, have been near capacity for months as economies have recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and demand has picked up, according to Craig Pirrong, a professor of finance and energy markets at the University of Houston.

If natural gas prices rise significantly higher, the world’s major producers may be able to squeeze out a little amount of additional supply, but economists believe a market squeeze will be inescapable.

“The market will allocate the gas where there is a great demand,” Pirrong added. “Supplies that would have gone to Asia otherwise would flow to Europe, cushioning some of the damage in Europe.”

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But if the Russians turn off the gas, it won’t be enough to compensate for the lost supply.”

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