The United States has said it was in “active discussions” with its European allies about banning Russian oil imports as a further economic penalty on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
“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,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the NBC talk show Meet the Press on Sunday.
Late last week the White House said it was looking for ways to reduce US consumption of Russian oil while protecting American families from price hikes, but pressure has mounted on Western nations to cut off Russian energy imports as a way to tighten the screws on the Kremlin.
“The actions we’ve taken to date have already had a devastating impact on the Russian economy,” Blinken added, referring to biting sanctions that have economically isolated Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.
With Western nations mulling the prospect of a boycott, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba waded into the debate to strongly stress that choking off Russia’s oil exports is crucial.
Asked Sunday on CNN about Shell’s announcement that it continued to buy Russian oil – and donate the profits to Ukrainian causes – Kuleba urged Shell and other energy giants to cut off Moscow’s biggest revenue source and “stop buying Russian oil”.
“Russian oil and gas smells of Ukrainian blood,” he said.
European and British gas prices surged to record peaks last week on supply disruption fears. And oil prices continued to push higher, with Brent futures ending at $118.11 a barrel, the highest level since 2008.
Like Blinken, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has spoken of ramping up sanctions on Russia, did not fully advocate an outright ban on Russian oil – at least not yet.
“The goal is to isolate Russia and to make it impossible for Putin to finance his wars,” she told CNN on Sunday. “For us, there is a strong strategy now to say we have to get rid of the dependency of fossil fuels from Russia.”
US legislators have directly sought an all-out boycott, with Republican and Democratic senators last week urging President Joe Biden to ban oil imports from Russia.
Americans are by far the world’s heaviest consumers of petrol, thanks to big cars, long driving distances and little public transportation in many areas, and rising petrol prices have traditionally been political poison for US leaders. Consumers are paying 40 cents more than a week ago for petrol, and 57 cents more than a month ago.
The US imported more than 20.4 million barrels of crude and refined products a month on average in 2021 from Russia, about 8 percent of US liquid fuel imports, according to the Energy Information Administration.