Biden admin working to avert energy shortage in Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

The Biden administration is engaged with European countries and major energy companies to prepare for a scenario in which a Russian invasion of Ukraine leads to a natural gas shortage in Europe, a senior administration official said Tuesday.

The official described the discussions as “contingency planning” if a Russian invasion damages natural gas infrastructure or Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliates against sanctions triggered by an incursion by deliberately cutting off supply to European countries.

“We’re working with countries and companies around the world to ensure the security of supply, to mitigate against price shocks affecting both the American people and the global economy,” the official said, adding that the talks have been ongoing for several weeks.

The Biden administration is working to identify existing non-Russian natural gas stockpiles from North Africa, Middle East, Asia and the United States and engaging with major natural gas producers about potentially surging supplies to Europe if needed.

The official declined to name the specific countries or companies with whom the Biden administration is in talks about alternative supplies.

CNN recently reported that the talks involve Norway and Qatar, in addition to other countries.

Russia supplies upward of 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas, a sizeable fraction of which flows through Ukraine. Germany in particular is very reliant on Russian gas and crude oil. That dependence has triggered concerns about the impact a Russian invasion would have on the European market.

A second senior administration official stressed that any action by Russia to cut off energy supplies to Europe would also have negative consequences on Moscow’s economy.

“This is not an asymmetric advantage for Putin. It is an interdependency,” the official said.

The plans are part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to prepare for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, which officials warn could happen at any moment.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops at its border with Ukraine and thus far shown no signs of deescalating despite U.S. attempts to use diplomacy to resolve the situation.

The Biden administration has also threatened harsh economic sanctions and export controls to squeeze Russian technology imports if Moscow chooses to launch an incursion in Ukraine.   

“We are prepared to implement sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014,” the second official said, referring to the year Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

The export controls under consideration would block Russia from importing sophisticated technology produced by the U.S., the official said, thereby harming Russia’s defense and technology sectors.

Tags Biden-Putin relations Vladimir Putin

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