Washington(AFP) – President Joe Biden welcomed Qatar’s emir to the White House on Monday, stressing the tiny Gulf state’s geopolitical importance, notably in the race to protect European allies from potential Russian energy blackouts.
Biden praised Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani only minutes after Boeing and Qatar Airways announced a massive new agreement, stating, “Our collaboration in Qatar has been crucial to many of our most critical interests.”
“We have a lot on our agenda today,” Biden remarked as he sat by the fire in the Oval Office.
“We’d like to discuss security in the Gulf and the broader Middle East, as well as guaranteeing the stability of global energy supplies, continuing our joint efforts to help the Afghan people, and boosting business ties.”
On that last note, the two leaders were able to celebrate Qatar Airways becoming the first client for Boeing’s new 777x cargo jets, with 34 planes in the initial contract for $20 billion.
Qatar Airways also signed a letter of intent for 25 737 MAX narrow-body planes for $6.7 billion at a White House event.
Recognizing Qatar’s importance to the US military’s worldwide footprint (the country is home to the Pentagon’s Central Command and a massive airfield), Biden declared the country a “major non-NATO ally,” paving the way for greater military and commercial relations.
However, efforts to secure enough natural gas to keep Europe warm this winter if the growing confrontation with Russia worsens overshadowed the gathering.
If Russia strikes Ukraine, where it has deployed over 100,000 combat soldiers, Western capitals are threatening unprecedented economic consequences.
However, there are concerns that Russia’s oil and gas behemoth would react against the European Union, which buys 40% of its natural gas from Russia and is already under a severe price squeeze.
The emir was the first head of a Gulf state to pay a visit to Biden since he took office little over a year ago.
The sheikh met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, members of Congress, and other officials in addition to Biden.