Biden announces ban on importing energy from Russia
President Joe Biden decided to ban imports of Russian oil, mounting the economic cost to Russia of invading Ukraine.
The move follows Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy's pleas to the United States and Western officials to cut off imports, which were a blatant disregard of the heavy sanctions imposed on Moscow for the invasion, CNN reported.
Energy exports have maintained a steady inflow of cash flow to Russia despite severe restrictions on its financial sector.
“I am announcing that the United States is targeting the main artery of the Russian economy. We are banning all imports of Russian oil, gas and energy," Biden said in remarks from the White House.
"That means Russian oil will no longer be accepted at American ports and the American people will deal another mighty blow to Putin's war machine," he added.
The United States takes the measure on its own, but after consultations with European allies that depend more on the energy exported by Russia. Russian natural gas comprises a third of Europe's consumption of that fuel. The United States does not import natural gas from Russia.
When the conflict broke out two weeks ago, Biden explained that he was reluctant to ban the import of Russian energy because he did not want to cause a rise in the price of gasoline.
Bloomberg was the first to report the White House's intention to ban imports of Russian fuel.
Before the invasion, oil and gas exports comprised more than a third of the Russian government's economic income.
Energy prices have soared since the invasion despite Western governments' decision to release strategic reserves, making Russian exports even more lucrative.
Biden sanctions Russia
The United States and its allies have imposed sanctions on major Russian banks, the Russian Ministry of Finance and its Central Bank, and have sought to cut Russia off from the SWIFT international financial messaging system.
But the rules issued by the Treasury Department allow Russian transactions to export energy, through unsanctioned banks that are not based in the United States, in order to minimize disturbances in world energy markets.
Inflation in the United States, fueled in part by fuel prices, is at heights not seen in 40 years and that is hurting Biden in the polls with the midterm elections in November just months away.
The sanctions leave Biden in a dilemma, between his political interests at the national level and his strategic plan at the international level. By invading Ukraine, Putin arguably risked the same supply chain problems that have affected Biden politically, who on the one hand wants to punish Putin but, on the other, does not want to affect his population economically.
Biden had specifically defended the exception on Russian energy exports because they would protect American companies and individuals from rising prices.
“We designed this sanctions package specifically to allow payments in the energy sector to continue,” Biden stated.
Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of crude oil.
Author: MiamiDiario JM 12:03 pm