Australia is considering supplying additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe after the United States and the United Kingdom raised concerns that the continent’s dependence on Russia could leave it vulnerable in a growing standoff with Vladimir Putin.
With more than 100,000 Russian troops massed near the border with Ukraine, the United States said it was working with allies and partners to prepare financial sanctions “with massive consequences” should the Russian president decide to withdraw. invade the Eastern European country.
A senior Biden administration official revealed the United States was also “looking at the global flow of LNG – whether it comes from the United States, Australia or other places”. Qatar is also part of the energy supply negotiations.
“The conversation is really wide with a lot of companies and countries around the world,” the administration official said during a press briefing.
The official said Russia had already limited the flow of gas through the pipeline crossing Ukraine from around 100 million cubic meters per day to 50 million.
Australian Resources Minister Keith Pitt said Australia was “a leading and reliable global exporter of LNG” and “stands ready to meet any demand for additional supply”.
“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.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said one of the “big problems we all face” in crafting a robust sanctions package against Russia was “the heavy reliance, on our European friends in particular , Russian gas”.
He said the UK was “in a stronger position to resist Russian gas blackmail”.
“We have to respect that, but the simple fact is that around 3% of UK gas supplies come from Russia, while around 36% of Germany’s energy needs come from Russian gas,” Johnson told the House. of the communes on Tuesday.
“We are working with President Biden and other colleagues to see what we can do to increase gas supply both to Europe and of course to this country.”
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who visited Australia for talks last week, said a new military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would trigger “coordinated sanctions”.
“We are working with allies and partners around the world because this is a threat not only to Europe, but to wider 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 looking to do.”
“That is why it is important that we work with allies, from Japan to India to Australia, as well as with the United States and our NATO allies, to strengthen our resolve and our safety and to make it absolutely clear that none of these diets will work,” 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 should they invade Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Marise Payne described the sanctions as “a potential tool” that Australia and like-minded countries could use “to express our very serious concerns about such aggressive behaviour”.
Russian Ambassador to Australia Alexey Pavlovsky dismissed the threat of Australian sanctions, saying it would have no effect on Moscow’s position. “Sanctions just don’t work,” Pavlovsky told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.
He denied that the Russian troop build-up showed any intention to invade Ukraine, arguing that it would be “a funny way to prepare for an invasion – just gather troops at the border and let them stay there. During months”.
“These troops are not a threat, they are a warning – a warning to Ukrainian leaders not to attempt reckless military adventures.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has asked for ‘security guarantees’, including the withdrawal from NATO of all countries that joined the alliance after 1997. It also asked for guarantees that Ukraine would never be admitted to NATO. Some Western analysts said the sweeping demands appeared designed to fail.
Pavlovsky said the Australian government’s stance and decision to remove family members of diplomats from its embassy in Ukraine was “regrettable”.
“Thirty years ago NATO forces were thousands of miles from the Russian borders and now they are just around the corner,” Pavlovsky said.
“I fully understand that some countries thousands of miles away may find it difficult to understand our concerns, but for Russia this is not a situation thousands of miles away.”
The Australian government says it has no plans to send troops or military assets to any conflict, but insists it offers “absolute and unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
Australia has also signaled its willingness to help Ukraine fend off cyberattacks.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Tuesday that Russia was “obvious in its intention to muster 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 all Australian citizens to leave Ukraine immediately as “flight availability may change or be suspended at short notice”.
But Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealed for calm, telling parliament that an invasion was not imminent and that people should “sleep well”.