Australia could send extra gas to Europe as Russia cuts supplies due to Ukraine tensions

© Yegor Aleyev/TASS. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

CANBERRA, Jan 26, 2022, The Guardian. Australia is considering supplying extra liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe after the US and the UK raised fears the continent’s reliance on Russia makes it vulnerable in a growing standoff with Vladimir Putin, The Guardian reported.

With more than 100,000 Russian troops massing near the border with Ukraine, the US said it was working with allies and partners to prepare financial sanctions “with massive consequence” if the Russian president decided to invade the eastern European country.

A senior Biden administration official revealed the US was also “looking at the global flow of LNG – whether it’s from the United States or from Australia or from other places”. Qatar is also part of the energy supply talks.

“The conversation is really broad with a lot of companies and countries around the world,” the administration official said at a background press briefing.

The official said Russia had already restricted the flow of gas through the pipeline running through Ukraine from about 100m cubic metres a day to 50m.

The Australian resources minister, Keith Pitt, said Australia was “a leading and reliable global exporter of LNG” and “stands ready to assist with any request for further supplies”.

“This shows how important Australian resources are to energy supplies around the world,” Pitt said in a statement.

The plans come after the UK also raised concerns about Germany’s reliance on Russian gas.

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said one of the “big issues we all face” in crafting a strong sanctions package against Russia was “the heavy dependence, of our European friends in particular, on Russian gas”.

He said the UK was “in a stronger position to resist the Russian gas blackmail”.

“We have to be respectful of this, but the simple fact is that about 3% of the UK’s gas supplies come from Russia, whereas about 36% of German energy needs come from Russian gas,” Johnson told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

“We are working together with president Biden and other colleagues to see what we can do to increase the supply of gas both to Europe and of course to this country.”

The British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, who visited Australia for talks last week, said a further military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would trigger “coordinated sanctions”.

“We are working with allies and partners across the world because this is a threat not just to Europe, but to broader global stability,” she said.

Truss warned of “the response we will see from other authoritarian regimes around the world if Putin is allowed to get away with what he is seeking to do”.

“That is why it is important that we work with allies, from Japan to India to Australia, as well as the United States and our Nato allies, to strengthen our resolve and our security and to make it absolutely clear that none of these regimes will succeed,” Truss said.

The Australian government has called for a de-escalation of tensions and has left the door open to imposing sanctions on Russian officials in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

The foreign minister, Marise Payne, described sanctions as “a potential tool” Australia and like-minded countries could use “to convey our very strong concerns about such aggressive behaviour”.

Russia’s ambassador to Australia, Alexey Pavlovsky, brushed off the threat of Australian sanctions, saying it would not have any effect on Moscow’s position. “Sanctions just don’t work,” Pavlovsky told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.

He denied that the Russian troop buildup showed any intention to invade Ukraine, arguing it would be “a funny way to prepare an invasion – just gather troops on the border and just let them sit there for months”.

“These troops are not a threat, they are a warning – a warning to Ukraine’s rulers not to attempt any reckless military adventures.”

Russia’s foreign ministry has pushed for “security guarantees”, including the retreat of Nato from all countries that joined the alliance after 1997. It has also sought a guarantee that Ukraine never be admitted to Nato. Some western analysts have said the sweeping demands seemed designed to fail.

Pavlovsky said the Australian government’s position, and its decision to remove family members of diplomats from its embassy in Ukraine, was “regrettable”.

“Thirty years ago Nato forces were thousands of miles away from Russian borders and now they are just around the corner,” Pavlovsky said.

“I fully understand that some countries situated thousands of miles away might find it difficult to appreciate our concerns, but for Russia it’s not a situation which is thousands of miles away.”

The Australian government says it is not considering sending troops or military assets in the event of a conflict but insists it is offering “absolute and steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Australia has also flagged its willingness to help Ukraine fend off cyber-attacks.

The defence minister, Peter Dutton, said on Tuesday that Russia was “obvious in its intent, amassing troops on the border”, and he predicted “bloody scenes” if it invaded Ukraine.

The comments follow the Australian government’s decision on Monday to urge any Australian citizens to leave Ukraine immediately because “flight availability could change or be suspended at short notice”.

But Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, appealed for calm, telling parliament an invasion was not imminent and people should “sleep well”.

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