President Joe Biden is expected to tout his administration's sanctions campaign against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine during his State of the Union address Tuesday night — but at least one Democratic lawmaker thinks the president's response is mightily lacking one key area.
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Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) rebuked the president on Monday over his refusal to cut off Russian energy imports, calling the White House's response "hypocritical" and "senseless."
Instead of continuing to buy up Russian energy, the moderate Democrat said the U.S. should be hitting the Kremlin where it hurts by curtailing purchases of Russian crude oil and energy while building up American energy independence.
"We produce energy cleaner than anybody in the world," Manchin told Bloomberg. "We’re buying 650,000 barrels a day from Russia. It’s ridiculous. Totally ridiculous."
The senator, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, later said in a statement: "The entire world is watching as [Russian President] Vladimir Putin uses energy as a weapon in an attempt to extort and coerce our European allies. 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 poses a "clear and present danger to our nation’s energy security," he added before calling on the Biden administration to "ramp up domestic energy production" right away.
"To continue to ask other countries to do what we can do for ourselves in a cleaner way is hypocritical," Manchin charged. "To continue to rely on Russian energy as they attack Ukraine is senseless."
Oil sales are a major income stream for Moscow and so remain a key funding source for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Given that fact, curbing energy imports seems like an obvious strategic maneuver, especially for a country as resource-rich as the U.S.
It's something even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau figured out — though Trudeau's declaratory ban on Russian crude oil imports was quickly called out as nothing but a public relations move. Canada hasn't imported Russian crude for years.
Nevertheless, Biden continues to allow Putin and his warring administration to benefit from foreign oil purchases, even while other sanctions levied by the U.S. and Western allies wreak havoc on the Russian economy.
A ban on crude oil imports from Russia could be the death knell for Moscow's war machine.
But just as he initially balked at imposing some of the most severe sanctions — such as removing Russia from SWIFT, a vital international banking system, and personally sanctioning Putin — Biden here again seems content to wait and see if such steps are necessary.
Meanwhile, Ukraine is burning.