Sources say the US move comes after Russia, the EU’s largest supplier of energy, teamed up with troops on the Ukrainian border.
US officials have been in talks with Qatar over the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European countries in the event a Russian invasion of Ukraine leads to shortages on the mainland, according to news reports.
Two people close to the issue tell Bloomberg that President Joe Biden planned to ask Gulf State Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to visit the White House, possibly as soon as later this month. It added that the meeting between Biden and Sheikh Tamim had been going on for some time.
The United States is worried Russia is preparing for the possibility of a new military attack on the country that partially invaded it in 2014, while Moscow denies that it plans to attack Ukraine.
The European Union is dependent on Russia for about one-third of its gas supplies, and US sanctions over any conflict could disrupt that supply.
Any interruptions in Russia’s gas supply to Europe will exacerbate an energy crisis caused by a shortage of fuel.
The State Department’s talks with energy companies were led by senior energy security adviser Amos Hochstein, a senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters news agency, on condition of anonymity.
“The United States has promised to have Europe’s back if there is an energy shortage due to conflict or sanctions,” another source told the agency.
“Amos is going to big LNG producing companies and countries like Qatar to see if they can help the United States,” he added, referring to Hochstein.
Qatari authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russian deployment to the border
Moscow crossed the West to merge troops near Ukraine in the past two months, following its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatists fighting Kyiv troops in eastern Ukraine.
Biden had previously told Russian President Vladimir Putin that a new Russian move against Ukraine would cause sanctions and a greater US presence in Europe.
Russia denies plotting to attack Ukraine, saying it has the right to repatriate its troops.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet Friday in Geneva on what the former called a “critical moment” in the crisis.
The top diplomats said they were open to further dialogue after the talks yielded no sign of breakthrough.
The EU member states get about 40 percent of their natural gas supplies from Russia, and most of it goes through Ukraine.
Qatar is one of the largest producers of LNG, with most of the fuel sold to East Asian countries.