WASHINGTON: The United States is "very open" to imposing sanctions on Russia's oil and gas industry as it also weighs the potential market impact, the White House said on Wednesday (Mar 2) as global oil prices touched eight-year highs and supply disruptions mounted.
In television interviews, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said while Washington was still considering hitting Moscow's vast energy sector over Russia's invasion of neighboring Ukraine, the impact on global oil markets and US energy prices were a key factor.
Asked if Washington and its Western allies would slap energy sanctions on Russia, Psaki told MSNBC: "We’re very open."
"We’re considering it. It’s very much on the table, but we need to weigh what all of the impacts will be," she added.
Although the United States has not yet targeted Russian oil sales as part of its sweeping economic sanctions following the invasion, US traders have already acted to put such imports on hold, disrupting energy markets.
Biden's administration has warned it could block Russian oil if Moscow continues its aggression against Kyiv. However, Psaki said the White House is considering how that could rattle the markets.
"That's something we heavily weigh," she told CNN separately.
Oil prices reached a peak of US$113 a barrel on Wednesday, nearly one week after Moscow invaded Ukraine. Meanwhile, OPEC+ oil producers meeting on Wednesday agreed to stick to their modest output rises, offering little relief to the market or consumers.
"We want to minimize the impact on the global market place and that includes the global oil market place and the impact of energy prices for the American people," Psaki said. "We’re not trying to hurt ourselves, we’re trying to hurt President Putin and the Russian economy."
On Tuesday, the United States and its allies agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil reserves to help offset supply disruptions.
Meanwhile, the United States is preparing a sanctions package targeting more Russian oligarchs as well as their companies and assets, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Previous sanctions have hit Russia's banking sector, among other targets.