The supertanker Astro Lupus waits to unload Russian crude oil. (Photo by Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – The United States is having “very active discussions” with its European allies about banning the importing of Russian oil, while “at the same time maintaining a steady global supply of oil,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday.
Bipartisan calls have been mounting for the administration to add Russian energy exports to the target list of sanctions in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and late last week the White House signaled a shift in its stance on the matter.
“I spoke to the president and the cabinet, the leading members of the cabinet, about this just yesterday from Europe,” Blinken told NBC’s “Meet the Press” from Moldova, the third of six countries he is visiting in Europe this week in response to Putin’s war.
“And we are now in very active discussions with our European partners about banning the import of Russian oil to our countries while, of course, at the same time maintaining a steady global supply of oil,” he added.
Blinken said sanctions imposed against Russia thus far have already had a major impact on the Russian economy, “but we are looking – again, as we speak – in coordination with allies and partners, at this prospect of banning oil imports.”
Blinken made the same point on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets,” he said. “That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”
Russia was the second largest provider (after Canada) of oil and petroleum products imported by the United States in 2021, supplying an average of 670,000 barrels a day, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data. That’s an increase of 24 percent from the 2020 figures.
(Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: US Energy Information Administration)
Europe is a significantly bigger importer of Russian crude, taking around 2.3 million barrels a day.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been calling on the administration to stop imports of Russian petroleum – while stepping up domestic production – arguing that the revenues are essentially funding the war in Ukraine.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation that would prohibit the importation of Russian crude oil, petroleum, petroleum products, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and coal.
“By leaving Russia’s energy exports untouched, the United States is ignoring one of our most potent options to stop the bloodshed,” said Murkowski. “We must ban Russia’s energy imports into the U.S. so that Americans aren’t forced to help finance their growing atrocities and halt the Russian aggression.”
“The Ban Russian Energy Imports Act would declare a national emergency with respect to Russian aggression and immediately prohibit the importation of Russian energy products,” Manchin said.
Asked that day about calls from Congress to ban Russian imports, White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied, “we don’t have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy.”
“And that would raise prices at the gas pump for the American people, around the world, because it would reduce the supply available,” she said. “And it’s as simple as: Less supply raises prices. And that is certainly a big factor for the president in this — at this moment.”
An oil terminal in Novorossiysk, Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Psaki said President Biden’s objective was to maximize the impact of sanctions on Moscow while minimizing impact they have on the U.S. and its allies and partners.
One day later, Psaki was asked whether the president would sign the bipartisan legislation, if it reached his desk.
She repeated the points about the push to maximize the impact on Russia while minimizing it on the U.S. and allies, and about reduction of supply leading to rising prices.
But Psaki also said that the administration was discussing the issue with Congress, adding, “We are looking at options we could take right now to cut U.S. consumption of Russian energy – but we are very focused on minimizing the impact of families.”
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