President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, speaking by video to a major policy conference in Qatar on Saturday, urged that nation and other energy producers to increase their gas exports to Europe as part of a drive to reduce the Continent’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
“The future of Europe rests with your efforts,” Zelenskyy said in a virtual address to the Doha Forum in Qatar, which is one of the world’s largest exporters of gas. “I urge you to increase energy production so that Russia understands that no state should use energy as a weapon to blackmail the world.”
Last year, 38% of the natural gas used by the European Union came from Russia, according to Bruegel, a research organization. Moves by the EU to wean itself off that supply is vital to a broader Western effort to punish Moscow, a major oil and gas producer, for its invasion of Ukraine.
The United States banned imports of Russian energy on March 8, and European nations have pledged to gradually follow suit. In Germany, which has been Moscow’s most important natural gas customer, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last month that the country would halt certification of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that would link his country with Russia.[ns-video id=”15e37ebf1ab4df2620093c7f55e5247″ publisher=”21905″]
Germany has set an ambitious goal of freeing itself from its dependence on Russian natural gas by the middle of 2024.
But securing alternative supplies of fossil fuels is costly and can take years. Rising energy prices have also caused Europe to tread carefully at it tries to minimize the economic damage caused on the Continent and the pain to the general public.
President Joe Biden and Ursula van der Leyen, the European Commission president, announced Friday that the United States would help secure more liquefied natural gas for Europe, although that plan will largely be symbolic in the short run, because the United States does not have enough capacity to export more of that fuel source and Europe does not have the capacity to import significantly more.
Zelenskyy’s appeal for support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country was the latest in a series of video addresses in which he has urged governments in the United States, Europe and Asia to supply more military aid and enforce tougher sanctions against Moscow.
“Responsible states like the state of Qatar are reliable and solid exporters of natural resources,” he said, “and they can make their contribution to the stabilization in Europe.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.