US officials are reportedly negotiating opportunities for contingency steps to secure energy supplies to European nations if a possible conflict between Russia and Ukraine disrupts current deliveries.
“We’re looking at what can be done in preparation for an event, especially midwinter with very low [European natural gas] supplies in storage,” a senior US administration official said, as quoted by FT.
“We discussed what can be moved around the market, what can help… the things we can prepare now for deployment if and when there is an escalated crisis.”
The talks with Qatar and member states of the European Union are being held as the bloc is struggling with a severe energy crunch, which is sending prices for natural gas soaring to record highs. The crisis could become even more intense if the White House introduces new punitive measures against Russia should Moscow launch a military assault on Ukraine.
Speculation about an invasion was initiated by Ukrainian and US officials several months ago, and has been actively fueled by both government officials and Western media outlets. The Russian authorities made it clear that it has no plans of this kind.
Moreover, Western nations have accused Russia of squeezing gas supplies in the midst of the energy crunch. The allegations, repeatedly rejected by the Russian government, have been actively used by Washington in the longstanding debate with Berlin over the necessity of launching the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the construction of which was led by Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom.
In an attempt to ramp up sales of liquified natural gas (LNG) to Europe markets, the US has regularly accused EU member states of heavy reliance on Russian gas supplies, persistently offering its LNG, the price of which is up to 40% higher than the piped gas, as an alternative source of fuel.
Potential sanctions over the Russia-Ukraine conflict may target major Russian commercial banks, Russia’s energy sector, blocking the state’s access to bond markets, cutting the country off from the SWIFT international payment system, and intensifying export control measures.
Europe will almost certainly face extremely high prices in the event of sanction-related supply disruptions, and co-ordinated government action will be required to source seaborne LNG cargoes, according to an unnamed energy industry executive, as quoted by the media.
“They will effectively have to compete for all the supply in the market, taking cargoes away from Asia, and the likely end result is the taxpayer will pay,” the executive said.
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