Biden’s sanctions on Russia exclude Putin’s profitable energy sector

In response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden and other allied leaders have authorized and imposed a variety of severe economic sanctions against Russia that specifically target that nation’s banking system and wealthy oligarchs.

Noticeably missing from the sanctions packages, however, are any restrictions on the oil and gas industry, a substantial component of Russia’s economy, meaning Putin and his cronies have essentially been gifted a financial lifeline, The Western Journal reported.

Indeed, it is Russia’s vast supply of oil and natural gas that has allowed it to gain wealth as well as a position of control over the rest of Europe, given that Russian energy resources account for roughly 40 percent of Europe’s energy supply.

Russian energy sector deliberately left out of sanctions package

The exclusion of Russia’s oil and gas production from the sanctions on exports was not an oversight and was purposeful, according to President Biden himself in remarks he issued on the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In announcing the variety of economic sanctions imposed by Thursday, Biden said, “We have purposefully designed these sanctions to maximize the long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our Allies.”

“You know, in our sanctions package, we specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue,” he more directly reiterated later in his speech. “We are closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruption. We have been coordinating with major oil-producing and consuming countries toward our common interest to secure global energy supplies.”

He added that he was urging other nations to increase energy production or release oil from strategic reserves to stabilize prices — which the U.S. itself would do — and dubiously claimed, given his administration’s anti-domestic energy production policies, that “I will do everything in my power to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump. This is critical to me.”

Psaki says, “on the energy sector, no option is off the table”

During Friday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the distinct lack of sanctions on Russia’s oil and gas exports to Europe, but she largely danced around that topic and simply rephrased what Biden had said about “making sure we are minimizing the impact on the American people, on the global economic system.”

Later, pressed on whether Russia’s energy sector could be sanctioned if Putin continued to be aggressive, Psaki acknowledged, “So I would say, on the energy sector, no option is off the table.”

“But again, to go back to the princi- — some of the principles here, our sanctions are designed to harm Russia’s economy, not our economy, and that’s a key balance that we’re clearly trying to strike,” she added.

Sanctions imposed on banks, oligarchs, and high-tech military-use equipment

As for the sanctions that have actually been imposed on Russia, a White House “fact sheet” released Thursday detailed how several of Russia’s top banks, financial institutions, and wealthy oligarchs had been targeted with restrictions and had assets frozen. In addition, restrictions were applied to exports of all military-use equipment and supplies to Russia, especially of the high-tech variety.

Saturday, another White House statement was released announcing even more sanctions against Russia — still nothing on oil and gas — the most significant of which was the blocking of Russian banks and financial institutions from the global SWIFT financial messaging system, a move that could prove economically crippling over time.

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