Biden to Meet Leader of Qatar; Talks to Cover Boosting Gas Supplies to Europe Amid Russia–Ukraine Tensions

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
January 31, 2022 Updated: January 31, 2022

President Joe Biden is hosting the ruling leader of Qatar at the White House on Jan. 31 for discussions that are expected to include boosting gas deliveries to Europe amid fears of energy supply disruptions to the U.S. ally if the Russia–Ukraine tensions erupt into a hot conflict.

Senior administration officials told reporters on a briefing call that Biden and Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will huddle on Monday to discuss a broad agenda, including energy security.

The leaders will “consult on a whole range of regional and global issues of mutual interest, including promoting security and prosperity in the Gulf and the broader Middle East region, ensuring the stability of global energy supplies, supporting the people of Afghanistan, and strengthening the commercial and investment cooperation between us,” the senior administration official said.

The official declined to confirm if there are expectations for a formal agreement on boosting Qatari gas supplies to Europe, adding that there was a “very robust diplomatic effort” underway on the part of the United States and its European partners to bring a diplomatic resolution to the Russia–Ukraine crisis.

The United States is concerned that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine and reports indicate that Washington has, in recent weeks, asked Qatar and other major gas producers to look into the possibility of supplying extra gas to Europe if Russian flows are disrupted.

Reuters reported last week that the United States was poised to ask Qatar, one of the world’s top liquefied natural gas producers, to reroute some gas supplies to Europe, though Qatar reportedly doesn’t have much spare supply.

A Russian invasion would likely trigger economic sanctions against Moscow by Washington and its European allies, with British media reporting last week that UK officials had raised concerns Russia could retaliate by reducing gas supplies to Europe.

Russia has repeatedly said it has no plans to invade Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that reports of Moscow potentially cutting off European gas supplies was “fake hysteria,” while insisting that Russia has been a “reliable guarantor of Europe’s energy security” even at times when relations with the West were tense.

Biden’s agenda for the meeting with Tamim will also include Iran’s nuclear talks and relations with Afghanistan, where Washington’s interests are now represented by Qatar.

Separately, Tamim will also meet with members of Congress, Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the administration official said.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'