President Joe Biden Biden on Friday announced a new initiative aimed at depriving Russian President Vladimir Putin of the European energy dividends that Biden says are being used to fuel Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Speaking in Brussels alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Biden said Russia is using its oil and gas supplies to “coerce and manipulate its neighbors.” He said the United States would help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, and would ensure that the continent had sufficient supplies for the coming winter. The announcement came before Biden left Brussels for Poland.
“It will take some time to adjust the gas supply chains and infrastructure that (that have been built) over the past decade, so we will have to make sure that families in Europe can get through this and the following winter as we build infrastructure for a diverse, resilient and clean energy future.”
Biden and von der Leyen announced the formation of a joint task force aimed at helping Europe wean itself off its dependence on Russian oil and gas. The committee, chaired by representatives from the White House and the European Commission, will aim to find alternative supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and reduce overall natural gas demand going forward.
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil has proven to be a major sticking point in Western efforts to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. While the United States banned Russian energy imports, Europe found it more difficult to cut off its supplies.
“I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe, but it is not only the right thing to do from a moral point of view, it will put us on a much stronger strategic foundation,” he said.
The White House said the United States will supply Europe with at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas in 2022, in partnership with other countries. The group will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing methane emissions and using clean energy to power energy operations.
Senior administration officials said 15 billion cubic meters of LNG comes from multiple sources, including the United States and countries in Asia. But officials did not have exact details of the source of the gas. Friday’s announcement was the culmination of US efforts over the past months to identify alternative energy sources for Europe, particularly in Asia. Officials said that these efforts will continue this year to achieve the goal.
One official said that weaning Europe off Russian energy was “to replace an unreliable supplier of LNG with a more reliable supplier in the United States.”
“This crisis also presents an opportunity,” Biden said. “A catalyst that will drive the investments we need to double our clean energy goals and accelerate progress toward a net-zero emissions future.”
Friday’s major energy announcement came during the president’s last leg in Brussels, before he travels to Poland.
After arriving at Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport in Poland later Friday, Biden is expected to receive a briefing on the humanitarian response to the war.
During his visit he met service members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Rzeszow, and even enjoyed some pizza with the troops.
“I just wanted to come over and say thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” Biden said as he walked into a cafeteria, adding, “It’s no exaggeration to suggest you’re the best fighting force in the world…in the history of the world.”
Then Biden pointed out that the pizza the soldiers were eating sounded good and said, “Well, if you start eating. I’m going to sit down and have something to eat. Is that okay?”
Then the chief enjoyed pizza as the soldiers spoke to them individually for several minutes.
The White House said Saturday that Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda to discuss how the United States and its allies will respond to the post-war refugee crisis. The White House confirmed that Biden will also meet with Ukrainian refugees and American humanitarian workers in Poland. He will deliver remarks, which the White House called a headline, before returning to Washington.
The White House said the visit to Poland aims to highlight the massive refugee crisis that has ensued since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine a month ago.
More than 3.5 million refugees have now fled Ukraine, according to data from the United Nations refugee agency released on Tuesday. The vast majority of these refugees have fled to Ukraine’s western neighbors via Europe.
Poland, which borders Ukraine to the west, has recorded more than two million Ukrainian refugees crossing into the country. However, the number of refugees residing in Poland is smaller, with many continuing their journey to other countries.
Earlier this month during Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to PolandDuda personally asked the vice president to speed up and simplify the procedures to allow Ukrainians with families in the United States to come to the country. Harris also warned that his country’s resources are under severe pressure due to the influx of refugees, even as Poland welcomes them with open arms.
The White House says that since February 24, the United States has provided more than $123 million to help countries neighboring Ukraine and the European Union address the refugee influx, including $48 million in Poland.
During a press conference on Thursday, Biden told reporters that he did not think taking a first-hand look at the refugee crisis while in Poland would necessarily change his response.
“What[it]will do is that it will reinforce my commitment to making the United States make sure that we are a key part of dealing with the resettlement of all of these people, as well as the humanitarian assistance that is needed inside and outside Ukraine,” the president said.
Biden has mentioned that he has visited war zones, saying he understands the plight of the refugees.
I’ve been to refugee camps. I have been in war zones for 15 years. And he said – it’s devastating.
Biden also said the refugee influx “is not something Poland, Romania or Germany should do alone.”
This is an international responsibility. And the United States, as … one of the leaders in the international community, has an obligation to participate — to participate and do everything in our power to alleviate the suffering and pain of innocent women, children, and men, for that matter, throughout — throughout Ukraine and those who have crossed the border,” Follow Biden.
He also said at the time that he was looking forward to a possible meeting with refugees in Poland, an item on the trip’s agenda that the White House has not yet announced.
The White House on Friday also sought to clarify another comment Biden made during Thursday’s news conference — when he said he would “reciprocate” if Russia used chemical weapons in Ukraine.
On his way to Poland aboard Air Force One, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US response to a possible chemical weapons attack by Russia would be coordinated with allies. Sullivan did not say what the response would entail, but said Russia would pay a “heavy price” and emphasized that “the United States has no intention of using chemical weapons, period – under any circumstances.”
The Poland trip also comes two weeks later The United States rejected Poland’s proposals To facilitate the transfer of its MiG-29 combat aircraft to Ukraine.
The United States has rejected Poland’s proposals over concerns that the United States and NATO will be seen as taking an escalatory step, further fueling conflict between the alliance and Russia – which are fiercely opposed to Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly requested more aircraft for the invasion, and made another plea to NATO leaders on Thursday.
During a hypothetical speech on Thursday, Zelensky asked NATO members about “1% of all your planes,” adding later, “You have thousands of fighter planes, but we haven’t got one yet.”
Despite Zelensky’s plea, a senior US official told CNN later Thursday that the US position on the fighter jet issue had not changed.
This story was updated with additional developments on Friday.
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