(Photo credit: SRA Danielle Upton, USAF)
US President Joe Biden issued a presidential declaration on 10 March formally designating Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, upgrading the economic and military partnership between Doha and Washington.
Qatar is now the third Gulf country to receive the designation, after Kuwait and Bahrain.
Back in January, Biden promised Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani that he would grant Doha the special status, marking a significant turn from the policies of his predecessor Donald Trump.
According to the US State Department website, becoming a major non-NATO ally “is a powerful symbol of the close relationship the United States shares with those countries and demonstrates our deep respect for the friendship for the countries to which it is extended.”
In recent weeks, Washington has been looking to further strengthen ties with Qatar in order to secure alternative energy supplies for Europe amid the growing list of western sanctions being imposed on Russia.
On 8 March, the European Commission revealed plans to reduce EU dependency on Russian energy sources in response to the Kremlin’s special military operation in Ukraine, proposing to cut gas imports from Russia by two thirds this year.
“By the end of this year, we can replace 100 billion cubic meters of gas imports from Russia. That is two thirds of what we import from them,” EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told reporters in Strasbourg, France on 8 March.
However, despite Washington’s best attempts to replace Russian Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) supplies with those coming from Qatar, in late February, the emirate’s energy minister made it clear that Doha would be unable to meet EU demands.
“Russia [provides], I think, 30-40 percent of the supply to Europe. There is no single country that can replace that kind of volume. There isn’t the capacity to do that with LNG,” Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi told reporters at a conference in Doha on 22 February.
He went on to add that Doha’s LNG supplies “are tied to long-term contracts and destinations that are very clear. So, to replace that sum of volume that quickly is almost impossible.”