According to CBS, Joe Biden will use his State of the Union speech to impress upon Americans the seriousness of his sanctions on Russia. Count at least one of his own Democratic colleagues among the unimpressed, however:
A majority of Americans support the U.S.’ actions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and Biden is expected to discuss the historic sanctions his administration has imposed on Putin in his State of the Union address Tuesday night. pic.twitter.com/VeWQWPP0lD
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) March 1, 2022
The US has mostly followed the EU in its sanctions, but Biden has left one thing in Vladimir Putin’s pockets — American energy purchases. “It’s ridiculous, totally ridiculous,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) declared yesterday, that “we’re buying over 600,000 barrels a day of crude from Russia.” Manchin wants an immediate end to such purchases — and more importantly, an immediate plan to increase American production to return to self-sufficiency.
Any other policy would be “hypocritical,” Manchin warned:
“The entire world is watching as Vladimir Putin uses energy as a weapon in an attempt to extort and coerce our European allies,” said Mr. Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee. “While Americans decry what is happening in Ukraine, the United States continues to allow the import of more than half a million barrels per day of crude oil and other petroleum products from Russia during this time of war.”
Continued reliance on Russian oil, according to Mr. Manchin, poses a “clear and present danger to our nation’s energy security.”
Instead, the senator urged the White House to incentive domestic energy production and use punitive measures, including tariffs and importation bans, against Russian oil.
“To continue to ask other countries to do what we can do for ourselves in a cleaner way is hypocritical,” Mr. Manchin said. “To continue to rely on Russian energy as they attack Ukraine is senseless.”
Isn’t that obvious? Even Justin Trudeau figured that much out yesterday, although his declaration banning Russian oil imports was entirely performative:
“Today, we are announcing our intention to ban all imports of crude oil from Russia, an industry that has benefited President Putin and his oligarchs greatly,” Trudeau said in French. “While Canada has imported very little amounts in recent years, this measure sends a powerful message.”
Canada hasn’t imported any crude oil from Russia since 2019, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told lawmakers on Monday.
It’s the thought that counts.
Don’t count on Biden to act, even with pressure from Manchin, Mark Warner, and Richard Blumenthal. He’s ignored the strategic argument for robust American oil and natural gas production since taking office, and well before that as well. Remember when he slipped up in the last presidential debate and said he’d curtail American oil production? I reminded readers that one of the key effects of that policy would be to boost fortunes in the places most hostile to the US:
The US has finally become a net exporter of energy by unleashing production through fracking and greater access to federal land. That production level allows prices to remain low, which is an absolute necessity for any economic recovery. Ending fracking and drilling on federal land will make us dependent on imports once again and to the price shocks that result from conflict abroad. The nation experienced a few such shocks during the Obama administration, when both Barack Obama and Joe Biden assured us — falsely — that we couldn’t drill our way to energy independence. The Trump administration quickly showed that we can, and that we did.
Biden’s pledge, if fulfilled, would have a number of secondary effects, and not just to the economy. Our energy independence has made us much less tied to foreign producers, which in turn gives us much more flexibility in foreign policy. A move to destroy American energy production would benefit Russia and Iran tremendously, making their exports much more valuable on the open and black markets. It would reduce our leverage even among allies like Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and recreate more problems in dealing with the collapsed Venezuelan regime. All of those effects make the risk of military conflicts go up substantially.
And here we are, having stuffed Putin’s coffers with high oil prices over the past year, with a new war in Europe. Low oil prices was a cheap form of containment in dealing with Iran and Russia, much less fraught than having to run guns into Ukraine in the middle of a shooting war. Rather than look at the strategic picture, Biden threw in with the radical environmentalists for his own political advantage — and now has to apply much more provocative sanctions against Russia in what will likely be a futile attempt to stop his murderous ambitions for eastern Europe. The ex post facto sanctions might end up putting us in a shooting war too, although the poor performance of Russia’s military in Ukraine probably has even Putin thinking twice about challenging NATO now.
And Biden can’t even stop buying Russian oil. Manchin’s not kidding about Biden’s hypocrisy.