Biden receives emir of Qatar, strengthens alliance amid fears Russia will close gas spigot to Europe

President Biden meets with Qatari Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

President Biden met with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, at the White House on Monday and told him he’s strengthening the U.S. alliance with the kingdom as the West faces a potential energy crisis if Russia invades Ukraine and cuts off gas supply to Europe.

“Qatar is a good friend and reliable partner,” Biden said. “And I’m notifying Congress that I will designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally to reflect the importance of the importance of our relationship.”

President Joe Biden meets with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, in the Oval Office at the White House on Jan. 31, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Tom Brenner-Pool/New York Times/Getty Images)

During an appearance with the emir in the Oval Office, Biden expressed gratitude to the leader of the oil-rich country for its recent assistance with many interests vital to the United States, such as maintaining stability in Gaza and helping to evacuate tens of thousands of helpers and U.S. citizens from Afghanistan amid the U.S. military withdrawal last summer.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, attends the Women’s final match between Great Britain and Spain during day five of the ANOC World Beach Games Qatar 2019 at Katara Beach on Oct. 16, 2019, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

As the second-biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, Qatar stands poised to be an important asset as 100,000 Russian troops mass on the Ukrainian border. Russia supplies roughly 40% of Europe’s natural gas, and concerns are growing that Moscow might use that as leverage if antagonism escalates with NATO over Russia’s ongoing aggression toward Ukraine.

Energy analysts who spoke to the AP, however, warned that Qatar is producing gas supply at full capacity already and much of it is contracted to countries in Asia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Valdai Discussion Club’s plenary meeting on Oct. 21, 2021, in Sochi, Russia. 
( Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

During the briefing, during which he took no questions, Biden assured reporters that his call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy last week was “productive” and that “we continue to engage nonstop diplomacy and to deescalate tensions and the to improve security for our allies.”

Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup later this year, which has drawn scrutiny from rights groups — fueled by player protests — and indignation from some World Cup organizers regarding the Gulf nation’s record on human rights.

Fox News’ Breck Dumas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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