By Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond, Kevin Liptak, Phil Mattingly, MJ Lee and Kate Sullivan, CNN
President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that his administration was banning imports of Russian oil, natural gas and coal into the United States in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Today I am announcing that the United States is targeting the main artery of the Russian economy. We ban all Russian oil, gas and energy imports,” Biden said in remarks from the White House. “It means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable in American ports and the American people will deliver another mighty blow to Putin’s war machine.”
The United States expected to act unilaterally, without its European allies, due to a disagreement among European nations over whether to ban Russian energy imports. EU countries are significantly more exposed to Russian energy than the United States. Shortly before Biden’s announcement, the UK said it planned to phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year.
American officials decided, given the extreme domestic political pressure, that they could act without their full coalition and not create major problems. Bloomberg was the first to report the move.
Biden stressed in his remarks that his decision will likely hurt Americans at the gas pump.
“Today’s decision is not without cost here at home,” Biden said. “Putin’s war is already hurting American families at the gas pump. Since Putin began his military buildup on the Ukrainian borders, just since then the price of gas at the pump in America has gone up by 75 cents and with this action it will go up even more. I will do everything I can to minimize Putin’s price hike here at home.
The president also warned companies against price hikes in times of crisis.
“To the oil and gas companies and the financial companies that support them: we understand that Putin’s war against the Ukrainian people is causing prices to rise. We understand that. Needless to say. But, but, but, but – this is not an excuse to exert excessive price increases or filler profits or any kind of effort to exploit this situation or exploit American consumers. Russia’s aggression is costing us all. And now is not the time to make profits or inflate prices,” Biden said.
US imports from Russia make up a small slice of the US energy portfolio – around 8% in 2021, of which only around 3% is crude oil. White House economic officials have been engaged for more than a week on how to handle any decision to halt those imports, officials said. The Department of Energy reported that in the last two weeks of February, Russian oil imports fell to zero as US companies cut ties with Russia, effectively implementing their own ban.
“Major damage to the Russian economy”
Sanctions the West imposed on Russia following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine had so far exempted oil exports.
Biden administration officials also traveled to Venezuela over the weekend to discuss the possibility of allowing Venezuela to sell its oil on the international market, which would help replace Russian fuel. Biden could also visit Saudi Arabia as the United States works to convince the kingdom to increase production. The talks underscore how Russia’s invasion has upended international relations and forced the United States and other countries to seek solutions in places they have typically avoided.
The move comes as gas prices soar in the United States as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shakes up the global oil market. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline broke its 2008 record, hitting $4.14 on Monday, according to the Oil Price Information Service, the company that collects and calculates AAA prices. That beats the previous record of $4.11 per gallon since July 2008.
Biden said the package of economic sanctions and export controls the United States has already imposed on Russia has caused “significant damage to the Russian economy” and that the value of the Russian ruble has fallen since Putin launched its attack on Ukraine.
“A ruble is now worth less than a US penny,” Biden said. The president said that Russia would not be able to increase the value of the ruble because the West has cut off the biggest Russian banks from the international financial system.
The president noted that major companies have independently suspended services in Russia, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Ford, Nike and Apple.
“The private sector is united against Russia’s vicious war of choice,” Biden said.
The White House focuses on gasoline prices
In public and private conversations, key US allies have said the United States would likely act alone if it targeted Russian energy imports. That raised its own concerns in the White House, as US officials remain cautious about pursuing any action that would fragment the carefully coordinated alliance that has served as the focal point of the response so far.
However, political pressure from Republicans and Democrats made postponing a ban untenable.
A Democrat directly involved in negotiations between the White House and Congress said that in recent days, lawmakers have exerted a lot of pressure – both in public statements and in private dealings – on the Biden White House for that pledges to block Russian oil imports to the United States.
While Biden himself had publicly stated in recent days that a Russian energy ban remained on the table, his top aides simultaneously let lawmakers know they were nervous about what it might mean in terms of gas prices rise again, the Democrat said. . They also told members that they were carefully deliberating to take into account the position of the United States’ European allies on this issue.
Bipartisan support for a ban on Russian oil imports into the United States has been growing on Capitol Hill in recent days, the senses. Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski and Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Brian Fitzpatrick presenting bills in both houses.
A White House official said he would reject any suggestion that congressional pressure pushed the White House into Tuesday’s announcement on the Russian oil import ban, telling CNN he welcomed the support from the members who had led the question. The official said the White House has impress upon lawmakers the importance of reducing US consumption of Russian energy while mitigating the impact on global supply and working in consultation with US allies.
The president also called on Congress to provide $12 billion in additional humanitarian, security, and economic assistance to Ukraine and its allies in the region. The new funds would be in addition to the more than $1 billion the United States has provided to Ukraine over the past year.
“We will continue to support the brave people of Ukraine as they fight for their country,” Biden said, adding, “We will support them against tyranny, oppression, violent acts of subjugation.”
“Russia can continue to grind its lead at a horrendous cost, but it’s already clear: Ukraine will never be a win for Putin,” Biden said. “Putin may be able to take a city, but he can never hold the country. And if we don’t respond to Putin’s onslaught today, the cost to the American people will be greater tomorrow.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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