Russia bid to 'weaponize energy' on Blinken agenda at NATO meet

FILE PHOTO: Blinken and Stoltenberg hold a news conference at the State Department in Washington

By Simon Lewis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will push back on Russia's attempts to "weaponize energy" and rally support for a Ukrainian counteroffensive when he meets NATO foreign ministers in Brussels next week, an official said on Thursday.

A meeting of the U.S.-EU Energy Council will focus on joint efforts to "blunt Russia's attempts to weaponize energy ... (and) bolstering energy supplies for the coming winters," Dereck Hogan, the State Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters.

The European Commission on Monday proposed that EU countries extend for a year an emergency measure to curb gas demand for the next 12 months, to help prepare Europe to get through next winter with scarce Russian gas.

Russia cut off most gas supplies to Europe in the months following its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine - squeezing supply and triggering record-high prices.

Talks between foreign ministers from the NATO alliance will have "a heavy focus on Ukraine" but will also touch on countering China in the Indo-Pacific, Hogan said.

NATO has sent large amounts of weapons and other aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded, which has also spurred moves to expand the alliance.

"We need to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to be able to mount a successful counteroffensive and then of course be able to hold on to what they do gain," Hogan said.

The top U.S. diplomat will meet with European Union High Representative and Vice President Josep Borrell, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba in Belgium on Tuesday and Wednesday, the State Department said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Doina Chiacu and Daphne Psaledakis; editing by Grant McCool)