Relenting to bipartisan pressure, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is banning Russian oil imports, which he described as "targeting the main artery of Russia's economy."
What You Need To Know
- President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is banning Russian oil imports, the latest in a long list of crippling economic sanctions against the Kremlin in response to the invasion of Ukraine
- "We will not be part of subsidizing (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war," Biden pledged. "This is a step that we're taking to inflict further pain on Putin."
- The U.S. will be acting alone, but in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies
- Biden had previously resisted blocking Russian oil imports, saying he wanted to spare Americans the burden of higher gas prices
The move is the latest in a long list of crippling economic sanctions against the Kremlin in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
"We're banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy," Biden said at the White House on Tuesday. "That means Russian oil will no longer be accepted at U.S. ports, and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine."
"We will not be part of subsidizing (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's war," Biden pledged. "This is a step that we're taking to inflict further pain on Putin."
Bloomberg was the first to report on Biden’s plan.
The move follows pleas by Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy to U.S. and Western officials to cut off the imports, which had been a glaring omission in the massive sanctions put in place on Russia.
The U.S. will be acting alone, but in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies. Natural gas from Russia accounts for one-third of Europe’s consumption of the fossil fuel. The U.S. does not import Russian natural gas.
“We're moving forward with this ban understanding that many of our European allies and partners may not be in a position to join us,” Biden said.
The new block on energy products will immediately prohibit any new purchases of Russian oil, gas and coal, a senior administration official explained on Tuesday, while allowing a 45-day wind-down period for purchases already under contract.
Besides blocking imports, the new ban will also block any new U.S. investment in the Russian energy sector and prevent Americans from financing any foreign companies investing in Russian energy.
The U.S. and international partners have sanctioned Russia’s largest banks, its central bank and finance ministry, and moved to block certain financial institutions from the SWIFT messaging system for international payments.
Biden, however, had resisted blocking Russian oil imports, saying he wanted to spare Americans the burden of higher gas prices.
“Our sanctions package, we specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue,” he said last month.
Even before word of Biden’s ban went public, gas prices reached an all-time high Tuesday — $4.17 for a regular gallon on average.
Calls from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill have grown louder over in recent days. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, last week introduced a bill that would block imports of Russian oil, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday similar legislation was in the works in the House.
The White House acknowledged last week it was considering a ban, but said it was searching for ways to do so without disrupting the global oil supply and raising gas prices on American families.
Biden said Tuesday he’s “going to do everything I can to minimize Putin's price hike here at home.” He did not elaborate, but cited last week’s announcement that the U.S. and 30 other countries were releasing 60 million barrels of crude oil from strategic reserves — half of that coming from the U.S.
“The decision today is not without cost here at home,” Biden said. “Putin's war is already hurting American families at the gas pump.”
The president said his administration is “taking steps to ensure the reliable supply of global energy are also going to keep working with every tool our disposal protect American families and businesses.”
Inflation, at a 40-year peak and fueled in large part by gas prices, has hurt Biden politically with voters heading into the November elections, despite widespread Republican support for banning Russian oil – though the president will likely face pressure from the right to ramp up domestic oil production.
“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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. “If you reduce supply in the global marketplace, you are going to raise gas prices, you're going to the raise the price of oil, and that is something the president is very mindful of and focused on.”
Psaki said the U.S. was weighing international and domestic options, but provided few details. She did, however, say: “What we're trying to do internationally is have conversations — as we have been for weeks now — with global suppliers about meeting the needs, the supply needs in the marketplace.”
A Quinnipiac poll released Monday found that 71% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, 82% of Democrats and 70% of independents, support a ban on Russian oil, if it meant higher gasoline prices in the United States.
Those results from that survey are similar to recent polling: A Reuters/Ipsos poll published Friday found that 80% of Americans believe the U.S. should not buy Russian oil or gas during the conflict. A separate NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, also released Friday, showed that more than two-thirds of Americans (69%), including a majority of Republicans, support the sanctions placed on Russia, even if it means higher energy prices.
Russia is the world’s third-largest exporter of oil, though its exports make up only a small percentage of the U.S. supply. But any disruption in the global oil market could be felt at home, experts say.
In 2021, the U.S. purchased around 670,000 barrels of crude oil a day on average from Russia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That accounted for about 8% of all U.S. oil imports.
Spectrum News' Austin Landis and Justin Tasolides contributed to this report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.