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The US seeks international support to ban the purchase of Russian crude

These plans for a possible oil embargo on Russia have contributed to further shoot up the price of a barrel of crude oil

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The United States is rallying international support to ban the import of Russian oil, as an additional measure to increase the cost to Russia of invading Ukraine, while seeking alternatives to ensure energy security. Within the framework of these contacts, the US president, Joe Biden, held a new video call on Monday with several European leaders: the French president, Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “The leaders affirmed their determination to continue to raise the costs to Russia of its unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said in a brief statement.

Likewise, the note added, the leaders stressed their “commitment to continue offering security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.” This weekend, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, assured that Washington is having “very active” talks with the European Union (EU) to ban the import of oil from Russia, in one more step to suffocate the Russian economy in retaliation for the war in Ukraine. The president of Ukraine, Volodímir Zelenski , was on Monday in favor of the international community approving the cancellation of Russian oil purchases. “You can call it an embargo or a moral act when you refuse to give money to terrorists,” Zelensky said in a video message.

Nervous about the rise in the price of oil

These plans for a possible oil embargo against Russia, one of the main world exporters, have contributed to further shooting up the price of a barrel of crude oil in international markets. Likewise, they have generated special concern in the European powers, as is the case of Germany, which are more reluctant to the measure, since they are much more dependent than the US on Moscow’s oil.

Within the US, these talks are taking place at a delicate economic time with inflation not seen in four decades and with the consequent nervousness in the Biden Administration, which fears greater pressure on the pockets of US citizens in a year. of legislative elections, next November. As a consequence, Washington has begun to probe other major oil producers to assess the possibility of offsetting the potential blockade of Russian crude with additional contributions and help stabilize international prices.

Among those contacted and, as a sign of the extraordinary geopolitical panorama unleashed by the Russian invasion, are Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Although Riyadh is a traditional ally of Washington, the Biden government had tried to keep its distance from the kingdom after the 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi , a contributor to The Washington Post , at his country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. ) by Saudi agents, some close to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

From the White House, the US government spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, stressed that it is in everyone’s interest to reduce the impact of the Russian invasion on the world oil market. More surprising has been the trip of a high-level delegation of US officials to Caracas this weekend to meet with members of the government of President Nicolás Maduro, confirmed this Monday by Psaki.

“The purpose of the trip (to Venezuela) was to discuss different issues, including, of course, energy security,” said the presidential spokeswoman, regarding what would be the first visit by high-ranking US officials to Venezuela in years. The US, under the Presidency of Donald Trump (2017-2021), imposed harsh economic sanctions in 2019 against Venezuela, including oil exports, the main Venezuelan economic engine, which Biden has maintained since his arrival at the House White in January 2021.

Reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank

In parallel, the Pentagon announced on Monday the sending of 500 additional US military personnel to countries on the eastern flank of NATO , in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which occurred a week and a half ago. US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told a news conference that the military “is being positioned to respond to the current security environment caused by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.”

On February 24, at the start of the Russian invasion , US President Joe Biden ordered the deployment of an additional 7,000 US military personnel to Germany to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, joining the 6,800 soldiers displaced by the US during the weeks prior to Europe (in countries such as Romania, Germany or Poland). All this while the humanitarian crisis created by the invasion of Ukraine increases day by day with the bombings and the number of refugees now exceeds 1.73 million, more than half of them in Poland, according to the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR). 

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