Biden plans gas shipments to Europe to reduce Russian leverage

BRUSSELS (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to announce an increase in liquefied natural gas shipments to Europe on Friday, part of a long-term initiative to wean the continent off Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine.

He plans to discuss the matter with Ursula von der Leyen, chief executive of the European Union, shortly before leaving for Poland, the final leg of his four-day trip.

Earlier this week, Von der Leyen said “we aim to have a commitment for additional supplies for the next two winters”. And Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, recently told reporters that the administration wants to quickly “get the gas up” to Europe.

Russian energy is an essential source of income and political leverage for Moscow. Nearly 40% of the natural gas in the European Union comes from Russia to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry.

After leaving Brussels, Biden travels to Rzeszów in Poland, where US troops are based about an hour’s drive from the Ukrainian border. He will receive a briefing on the humanitarian response to refugees fleeing Ukraine and those still suffering inside the country. And Biden will meet with American servicemen from the 82nd Airborne Division, who serve alongside Polish troops.

Biden is then expected to travel to Warsaw, where he will meet Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday.

Before returning to Washington, the White House said, Biden will deliver a speech “about the united efforts of the free world to stand with the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future rooted in democratic principles.” ”

While in Brussels, Biden took part in a trio of summits hosted by NATO, the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the European Union, all on Thursday. The extraordinary series of meetings reflects heightened concerns over the war in Ukraine, which has entered its second month.

US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pose for a family photo during the G7 summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022.

Michael Kcaller/Pool via Reuters

Although Ukraine resisted the Russian invasion with much more success than initially expected, the conflict became a grueling and bloody affair, with thousands of casualties on either side and millions of refugees fleeing the country.

Western leaders also fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use chemical or even nuclear weapons to reignite the war.

Getting more liquefied natural gas to Europe could be difficult, even though the United States has significantly increased its exports in recent years. Many export facilities are already operating at full capacity and most new terminals are still in the planning stage.

Most US shipments are already destined for Europe, according to the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, an industry lobby group. Although much of the supply is already outsourced to buyers, there are still opportunities to change its destination.

“The United States is in a unique position because it has flexible LNG that can be rerouted to Europe or Asia, depending on who is willing to pay that price,” said Emily McClain, market analyst for the gas at Rystad.

Even if the United States can ship more gas to Europe, the continent may struggle to receive it. Import terminals are located in coastal areas, where there are fewer pipeline connections to distribute it.

Even if all European facilities were operating at full capacity, the amount of gas would probably be only about two-thirds of what Russia delivers through pipelines.

Bussewitz reported from New York.


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