U.S., EU strike deal to cut Russian fuel dependency; President Joe Biden heads on to Poland

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March 25 (UPI) — The United States and the European Union announced a new agreement Friday aimed at reducing Europe’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels over the war in Ukraine.

The deal was announced amid U.S President Joe Biden’s trip to Europe that is aimed at fortifying an allied response to aid Ukraine and punish Russia for its invasion of its neighbor.

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Biden and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen produced a joint statement Thursday following their meeting that expressed their unity in condemning Russia’s “unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.”

It also mentioned that they will work to establish a joint task for to address the immediate security needs of the EU.

“The Task Force will be chaired by a representative from the White House and a representative of the president of the European Commission,” the United States and European Commission said in a joint statement.

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“The energy security and sustainability of the EU and Ukraine are essential for peace, freedom and democracy in Europe.”

That partnership was officially announced Friday by the White House, stating that Biden’s administration will increase liquefied national gas exports to the EU market by at least 15 billion cubic meters this year with expected increases going forward.

The two governments will simultaneously work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from LNG infrastructure through using clean energy to power onsite operations and reduce leaks as well as build clean and renewable hydrogen-ready infrastructure.

“It will work to ensure energy security for Ukraine and the EU in preparation for next winter and the following while while supporting the EU’s goal to end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels,” the White House said in a statement.

The issue of reducing Europe’s energy dependence on Russia has been brought to the forefront as a security issue since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

A Ukrainian woman is seen after a residential district was shelled by Russian forces in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 18. More than 3.6 million Ukrainians have fled since the fighting began a month ago. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI
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Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine has led to worries about an energy crisis in the continent as it has caused a shift away from it as a dependable resource with Germany halting its massive $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline that ran from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany and Europe.

Ahead of Biden’s visit, Ursula told European legislators that the continent “is being rocked by a tectonic shift” not seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as the war in Ukraine is having far reaching consequences not only militarily but also upon energy.

“Energy policy is also security policy,” she said, adding that she would speak with Biden about prioritizing LNG deliveries from the United States to the EU in the coming months.

“We are aiming at having a commitment for additional supplies for the next two winters.”

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier this week that they should expect Biden to look for ways to “surge LNG supplies to Europe” not only in the long term “but over the course of months as well.”

Following his meetings with the commission, Biden left Belgium for Poland on Friday — first traveling to Rzeszow and meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. He will then meet with service members from the 82nd Airborne Division and depart for Warsaw later on Friday.

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According to the White House schedule, Biden will receive a briefing in Rzeszow on the humanitarian response to ease the suffering of civilians inside Ukraine and to respond to the growing flow of refugees.

Biden will hold bilateral meetings with Duda on Saturday before he returns to Washington, D.C.

Earlier this month, Poland had wanted to transfer warplanes to Ukraine — a move that the United States rejected, explaining that NATO jets departing from German bases to fly into Russian-contested airspace over Ukraine could escalate the situation.

Poland has also said it supports sending a NATO peacekeeping mission to Ukraine, which the United States said it will not participate in.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday before an emergency summit that he will not deploy NATO troops on the ground in Ukraine or dispatch planes into its airspace as they have a responsibility to all member states.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that this conflict does not escalate beyond Ukraine,” he said. “That will cause even more suffering, even more death, even more destruction.”

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Poland earlier this month as a show of support for Ukraine and NATO and other allies under threat from Russia. During the visit, she pledged $53 million in humanitarian aid for displaced Ukrainians.

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Since the Russian war in Ukraine began, more than 3.6 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee — more than 2.1 million to Poland, which is hosting by far the larges number, according to U.N. data.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters en route to Europe on Wednesday that Biden plans to thank Duda for support and discuss coordinating humanitarian relief.

“He going to announce further American contributions to respond to the growing flow of refugees and to coordinate humanitarian response to ease the suffering of civilians inside Ukraine,” she said. “I’m not going to get ahead of the president, but this is something that’s coming forward.”