President Joe Biden and his European allies could take one move to strike at the heart of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and its wealth: Imposing direct sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas industry, reports Politico.
But that move could trigger an energy crisis that cripples their economies, threatens their own grip on power and perhaps even enriches Putin in bigger ways.
Risk of economic and political blowback
The risk of economic and political blowback is stymieing U.S. and European allies hitting Putin with the kinds of restrictions they used on Iran over the past decade. It shows how reliance on oil imports and worries about rising gasoline prices continue to constrain Washington’s action in international crises — even after the U.S. has emerged as an energy powerhouse in its own right and has made progress in moving toward greener sources like wind and solar.
“My administration is using every tool at its disposal to protect American families and businesses from rising prices at the gas pump,” Biden said at a press conference Thursday, adding that his newest sanctions were specifically designed to allow Russian energy payments to continue.
Muted calls to crimp Russian energy shipment
Russia is the world’s third largest oil producer and second largest natural gas producer — the U.S. is No. 1 for both — and those fossil fuels contributed 36 percent of Moscow’s budget in 2021, or $119 billion in revenues. Few people doubt that sanctions choking off that flow might alter Putin’s thinking. But those exports have created a mutual dependency between Moscow and many of its customers, particularly in Europe, that would spread the pain far beyond Russia.
Those economic and political factors have meant that even many of the West’s biggest Russia hawks have offered only muted calls to crimp Russian energy shipments, even as its troops close in around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
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