The U.S. is focused on voluntarily getting countries to move away from purchasing Russian oil at discounted prices and not imposing secondary sanctions now, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, at a hearing on the FY2023 State Department Budget.
Questioned by Senator Chris van Hollen (Democrat, Maryland) on why the U.S. was not imposing secondary sanctions on countries purchasing Russian oil at a discount, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Blinken said that where preferable, the U.S. wanted to “get countries to voluntarily not engage” in the practice.
Imposing sanctions could also have the opposite of the desired effect, and end up being profitable for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Secretary said.
“...We want to make sure that we are not taking actions in the near term that may have the result of spiking energy prices, and thus lining Putin’s pockets instead of taking resources away,” Mr. Blinken said.
“We have to do it in a deliberate way so that we don’t have an effect contrary to the one that we’re trying to achieve,” he said.
While China was singled out during this exchange, there was no direct mention of India. The U.S. has been pressuring India, which imports a few percentage points of its total energy import bill from Russia to not increase its purchases of oil from Moscow. New Delhi has purchased discounted oil from Moscow, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying that India’s national interest comes first and the country would buy fuel at lower prices, if available.
Commodity prices - including food and energy prices - have shot up globally with supplies impacted due to the Russia-Ukraine war.