The U.S. is banning all imports of Russian oil and gas, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday — a move that he said "will deal another powerful blow to Putin's war machine" as the Russian army continues its assault on Ukraine.
This step, outlined in an executive order, is the latest move by Washington to squeeze Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is one of the world's wealthiest individuals, accused by critics of filling his pockets with ill-gotten gains from his energy-exporting nation. Under the executive order, the U.S. is also banning all imports of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, coal and coal products and banning any American from investing in Russia's energy sector.
Last year, the U.S. imported nearly 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products from Russia — a far cry from the some 4.5 million barrels of Russian oil that Europe imports each day.
"We're moving forward on this ban understanding that many of our European allies and partners may not be in a position to join us," Biden said. "The United States produces far more oil domestically than all the European countries combined. In fact, we're a net exporter of energy. So we can take this step when others cannot."
Meanwhile, Britain on Tuesday said it would phase out imports of Russian oil and oil products by the end of this year.
Biden also announced Tuesday that International Energy Agency members agreed to a collective release of 60 million barrels of crude oil from strategic petroleum reserves, with the United States committing half of that amount.
Biden said he has received support from his political allies and critics, with Republican U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, saying "this action is a necessary step for the world. Vladimir Putin's war chest is dependent on revenue [that] comes from selling energy — some of it to Americans when we have more than enough oil and gas for ourselves and most of the rest of the world."
He added "Because of this, oil is a weapon for Putin. It's about time the Biden administration recognized this weaponization of energy. This import ban is designed to further cripple Putin's financial stream to wage war on the freedom-loving people of Ukraine and a host of other mischief."
Biden has repeatedly said he has no intention to send U.S. troops to Ukraine, and that these economic moves are a strong deterrent for Putin.
"Yesterday I spoke with my counterparts in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom about how Russia is escalating violence against Ukraine and the steps that we're going to take together with our allies and partners around the world to respond to this aggression," Biden said.
"We are enforcing the most significant package of economic sanctions in history and it's causing significant damage to Russia's economy."
This report contains information from Reuters.