U.S. to Bolster Europe’s Fuel Supply to Blunt Threat of Russian Cutoff

Russia provides about one-third of the gas and crude oil imported by the European Union. Last year, Russia provided about 128 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, according to industry estimates, and about a third of that flowed through Ukrainian territory.

Russia has reduced that flow this winter, and its effort to open the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, connecting Siberia to Germany, would give it a way to route all of its gas around Ukraine, crippling a key source of revenue for the Ukrainian government while increasing European dependency on Russian supply.

The initiative to get fuel from alternative sources flowing to Europe now, before a true crisis erupts, was described by Biden administration officials as a key element in assuring allies that they will be able to weather any cutoff of supply from Russia. And they argue that Russia’s huge dependency on its oil and gas sales — which accounts for more than a third of the country’s gross domestic product and much of the government’s revenue — creates a vulnerability in Moscow that the Western allies can exploit.

“If Russia decides to weaponize its supply of natural gas or crude oil,’’ a senior administration official told reporters in a call on Tuesday morning, “it wouldn’t be without consequences to the Russian economy. Remember, this is a one-dimensional economy, and that means it needs oil and gas revenues at least as much as Europe needs its energy supply.”

The official added: “We expect to be prepared to ensure alternative supplies covering a significant majority of the potential shortfall.’’

The official declined to say which countries were cooperating in the effort to rapidly replace oil and gas from Russia, but some of the sources are obvious, including Saudi Arabia, and existing providers, like Norway. But all of those suppliers face capacity limits, so the U.S. effort appears to be focused on getting incremental increases from a variety of sources.

The official, who declined to be identified under briefing rules set by the administration, said the effort involves boosting “a few cargoes of different suppliers,’’ and could involve sending shipments of liquid natural gas from the United States and other producers.