Biden administration officials traveled to Venezuela over the weekend for talks on potentially allowing the country to sell its oil on the international market, helping to replace Russian fuel. Biden may travel to Saudi Arabia as the US works to convince the kingdom to increase its production. And a looming nuclear deal could bring significant volumes of Iranian oil back to the market.
Caracas, Riyadh and Tehran would have been unlikely sources of relief for a Biden-led Western alliance before the start of the war in Ukraine. But Russia’s invasion has upended international relations, forcing the US and other nations to seek out solutions in places they’d previously shunned.
Those efforts have grown more intense in recent days and Biden is expected to announce a ban on Russian energy imports on Tuesday morning, according to three sources familiar with the decision.In both public and private conversations, top American allies have said the US would likely be acting on its own should it target Russian energy imports. That has raised its own concerns, as US officials remain wary of pursuing any action that would fragment the carefully coordinated alliance that has served as the focal point of the response up to this point.
Russia has typically exported roughly 5 million barrels of crude per day, half of which goes to Europe. Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, could help make up the gap, but the country has suffered persistent output issues. Before sanctions were applied on Iran, it produced about 4 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia has spare capacity to ramp up production, though it has so far been unwilling.
For Biden, the effort to identify oil supplies — even in autocratic regimes — demonstrates the lengths he is willing to go to inflict serious pain on Moscow. He has long framed his presidency around defending democracy from creeping authoritarianism and accused his predecessor of cozying up to the world’s strongmen. But reducing the world’s dependance on one autocrat’s energy supplies could mean turning to another’s instead.
It’s far from clear that the administration’s efforts will yield results. Venezuela’s socialist leader, Nicolás Maduro, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top ally in Latin America. So far, Saudi Arabia has refused to increase production, though officials remain hopeful of a breakthrough. And a revived Iran nuclear deal remains elusive — in part because of new demands by Russia, a partner in the international negotiations.
Still, Biden administration officials remain intent on identifying potential supplies of energy that could replace Russia’s exports. While US officials have assessed it would not be in Russia’s interest to weaponize its energy exports, the risk that it may come to pass and the need to protect European allies — particularly when it …….