As the US is looking for more ways to inflict damage on Russia’s economy, the Biden administration is reportedly considering targeting buyers of Russian oil, which would be a significant escalation in the US sanctions campaign.
The New York Times reported last week that the proposed measures include a price cap and so-called secondary sanctions that would block Russian oil buyers from doing business with companies based in the US and in other nations aligned with Washington. The US has similar sanctions imposed on Iranian oil sales.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm wouldn’t rule out the idea of secondary sanctions when asked by reporters about the measures last week. “I know that that’s certainly not off the table,” she said. “The administration is going to be making decisions in that vein … I’m not telegraphing, that’s their call.”
US officials told the Times that while they are looking to hurt Russian oil sales, they don’t want to reduce the commodity from the global market too suddenly as it would cause a surge in oil prices. But the US is pushing countries to implement phased bans of Russian oil.
The EU is currently working on a plan to end imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022, but it is being delayed due to strong objections from Hungary. The US would likely wait until the EU agrees on the way to wean itself off Russian oil before rolling out the secondary sanctions.
If implemented, the secondary sanctions could target China and put the US on a collision course with India, which has continued the purchase of Russian oil despite the pressure from Washington. So far, the US, Britain, Canada, and Australia have all banned the import of Russian oil.