US President Joe Biden is holding talks today with the emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Washington. The leaders will discuss the stability of the global energy supply and broader security issues in the Middle East.
The visit follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call to his counterpart in Qatar on Monday which explored energy options if Russia invades Ukraine, triggering sanctions on Russian oil flows. Europe currently relies on Russia for 35% of its natural gas, which Russia may leverage to keep Europe out of an escalated Ukraine-Russia conflict.
Qatar-US relations are strong following Qatar’s assistance in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, but energy aid to Europe from Qatar is not guaranteed. Qatar is already operating at near-maximum capacity and its energy shipments are locked into long-term supply contracts which are not easily broken. Despite these obstacles, Qatar’s reputation as a player in international power politics is growing and it will likely seek to cement its role as a pragmatic mediator in international dilemmas. As a result, it is highly likely the US will broker a deal with Qatar that solidifies a European energy relationship in both the short and long term.
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Acadia is an analyst on the Current Developments team and regular contributor to the Daily Brief. She focuses on authoritarianism and security in the Middle East.