US diplomats have opened negotiations with major gas exporters around the world to supply European nations in the event of a power cut from Russia.
White House officials said on Tuesday they were confident Europe would have a reliable supply of natural gas, even if the continent’s energy supply from Russia were abruptly cut off.
“To ensure that Europe is able to weather the winter…we expect to be ready to secure alternative supplies covering a large majority of the potential shortfall,” an official said, according to the Guardian.
The quiet US diplomatic campaign to secure gas supplies appears to be an attempt to blunt a major Kremlin economic weapon: its ability to cut gas exports to Europe, which buys most of its fuel winter heating in Russia.
While the administration is reportedly focused on reaching a deal with Qatar, the world’s largest natural gas supplier, Biden administration officials have said they are working to secure gas supplies from many countries. “The conversation is really broad, with a lot of companies and countries around the world,” an official said. “It’s not focused on one or two suppliers…in doing so, you don’t need to ask a particular company or country to increase exports of large volumes, but rather of smaller volumes from a multitude of sources.”
The issue of gas heating has been a source of contention as European nations struggle to prepare for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. There are now more than 100,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, raising fears that Russia intends to invade. Russian troops recently entered Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, for a series of joint military exercises that some officials say could serve as a cover to prepare for an invasion from multiple directions.
In an address to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted that Germany, a major importer of Russian gas and the final destination of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, was reluctant to impose sanctions on Russia. Germany remained broadly aligned with other European countries on the Ukraine issue, but urged caution and restraint for all parties involved.
Diplomacy continued between Russia, the United States and NATO. Initial talks to end the crisis in Geneva did not result in an agreement, but further talks are said to have made gradual progress. As part of these negotiations, Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak reportedly traveled to Paris on Tuesday for additional talks with French, German and Ukrainian officials.
Trevor Filseth is a news and foreign affairs editor for the National interest.