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Biden’s ban on Russian oil harms his own popularity

Russian oil, Joe Biden, Russia, Americans, Congress, United States

Opinion

Biden’s ban on Russian oil harms his own popularity

Ban on Russian oil could cause further damage to Biden’s approval ratings. Writes Lucas Leiroz

US President Joe Biden announced on March 8 the suspension of oil imports from Russia. The measure is one of the most radical taken by Washington so far, considering that about 10% of the oil consumed by the US is of Russian origin. Considering that the American society is heavily dependent on oil (with most families owning more than one car), the move could directly affect Biden’s popularity.

These were some of Biden’s words in his speech announcing the new measure: “Today I’m announcing the United States is targeting the main artery of Russia’s economy. We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy. That means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at US ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine (…) This is a move that has strong bipartisan support in Congress and I believe in the country. Americans have rallied to support the Ukrainian people and made it clear we will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war (…) This is a step that we’re taking to inflict further pain on Putin, but there will be costs as well here in the United States”.

Biden makes it clear that his measure will harm American society but decides to take this risk simply to attack the Russian economy, which he considers essential to neutralize Russian military power. Although Russian oil represents a small percentage of American consumption, any loss of oil source can negatively affect a country as dependent on this resource as the US, whose social structure is based on individual road transport, with a very wide distribution of vehicles. Any increase in the price of oil negatively impacts the image of an American president.

The barrel of oil has been increasing its price exponentially recently, having reached the incredible mark of 129,00 dollars on the day Biden announced the ban. With that, the American people will pay directly for the material consequences of Biden’s political plans, whose focus, rather than improving Americans’ lives, seems to be simply trying to harm Russia in some way.

In Parliament, politicians seem to agree with Biden’s measure, considering the US government’s priority to “contain” Russia in every way possible. House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Biden’s decision and promised to pass rigid laws against Russian energy over the next few days. In the same vein, state departments seem to be committed to the government’s plans, promising to increase US energy production in order to fill the gap left by the banned oil and gas imports. For example, the Department of Energy raised its forecast for oil production in 2023 by 390,000 barrels per day, for a total of 12.99 million barrels per day. This year alone, US oil production is expected to increase by 60,000 barrels a day.

It is difficult, however, for this anti-Russian enthusiasm to be shared by the American people, who is not interested in plans to “punish” Moscow. No American citizen wants to pay more in fuel just to “contain Russia”. Despite Parliament and state departments showing support for Biden, it is virtually inevitable that his popularity will continue to drop sharply in the coming months due to such measures.

To avoid aggravating the problems, Washington is already taking several emergency initiatives. In addition to increasing domestic production, the American government is advancing in negotiations for the recognition of the Maduro government in Venezuela, with the possibility of an end to the economic embargo in the coming months. The objective is simple: expand energy sources and reduce the responsibility of domestic production – and, to achieve its goals, Washington overcomes any political or ideological barriers.

So, being the world’s largest oil producer and re-establishing ties with Venezuela, it is possible that the US will reduce the damage of its ban on Russian oil, but the same cannot be said about the Europeans, who heavily depend on Russian energy sources for the supply of the entire continent. Biden himself seems to admit this problem: “We’re moving forward with this ban understanding that many of our European partners and allies may not be in a position to join us (…) But we’re working closely with Europe and our partners to develop a long-term strategy to reduce their dependance on Russian energy as well”.

Indeed, if Biden and his team were really concerned about EU’s interests, it would be simpler to say that European states can freely trade energy with Russia despite ideological barriers – as is currently happening between Washington and Caracas. But, on the contrary, the Democrat insists on an unrealistic speech about alternative sources ‘to reduce dependance”, maintaining the position that the ban on Russia is an elementary measure to be followed.

Biden tries to show some “optimism” towards the European energy supply but fails. It is impossible for any alternative project to bring energy to the Europeans to be completed in time to avoid damage from a possible ban on the cooperation with Russia. Although the American president admits that some European states cannot follow the American attitude at the moment, it is inevitable that international pressure will arise for such a ban to occur, considering the influence of the American government’s decisions within the European political space. So, the most likely for the near future is that European countries will start banning Russian energy on a large scale, even if it harms their internal social scenarios.

The American message in this regard is clear: Washington can do anything to guarantee its interests, even negotiating with Venezuela, but its partners are not allowed to follow this same sovereign path. It is up to the Europeans only to follow American decisions, with no real sovereignty in the EU States. The US government says that punishing Russia is more important than securing national social and economic interests in the energy sector, and the entire West simply accepts this passively.

Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant.

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Blitz’s Editorial Board is responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on BLiTZ

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