U.S. President Joe Biden has announced the ban on all imports of oil and gas from Russia in a move to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.
In a White House press conference Tuesday morning, Biden said the move targets “the main artery of Russia’s economy.”
“We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy. That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine,” Biden said.
The move to sanction Russian oil and gas comes amid calls from Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and others to hit Russia’s oil and gas sector in response to the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, which has sent over two million refugees across its borders into Europe.
While the United States has not imported a significant amount of Russian energy products, many European nations continue to rely on Russian oil and gas to fulfill a massive share of their energy needs. It is unclear if countries like Germany and Italy will join with America’s sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas sector amid skyrocketing prices.
Prior to the ban, the U.S. imported an average of 209,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which makes up around 3% of the country’s total crude oil imports. The European Union, in contrast, imports around 35% of natural gas from Russia.
Speaking at the press conference, Biden acknowledged that the U.S. understands why many of its European allies may choose not to impose a similar ban on Russian products.
“The United States produces far more oil domestically than all the European countries combined,” said Biden. “We can take this step when others cannot, but we’re working closely with Europe and our partners to develop a long-term strategy to reduce their dependence on Russian energy, as well.”
Ahead of the ban on Monday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak warned that a western ban on Russian oil imports could result in crude oil prices doubling to about $300 per barrel, and prompt the closure of its gas pipeline to Germany.
In a statement on Russia’s state television, Novak said it is “absolutely clear that a rejection of Russian oil would lead to catastrophic consequences for the global market.”
“The surge in prices would be unpredictable,” he added. “It would be $300 per barrel if not more.”
Over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the leadership in D.C. was participating in “active” discussions with its European allies “about banning the import of Russian oil to our countries, while of course at the same time maintaining a steady global supply of oil.”