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Tipsheet

Blinken's Response on Banning Russian Oil Imports Suggests Biden Administration 'Leading from Behind'

Drew Angerer/Pool via AP

After a week full of disappointing responses from the Biden administration on Russian oil and energy independence, anyone hoping for some clarity from Secretary of State Antony Blinken is likely to be disappointed. While making the rounds on Sunday shows this week, the secretary was asked about Russian oil, especially during his appearances on CNN's "State of the Union" and NBC's "Meet the Press."

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CNN's Jake Tapper reminded Blinken that, for all of the self-congratulations when it comes to the Biden administration about sanctions, the United States is not moving as fast as Europeans are. Further, the U.S. is still buying oil from Russia. 

"The U.S. has not banned imports of Russian oil. The U.S. has not ruled out trade sanctions. We're still working with the Russians on the Iran deal," Tapper said. "Why not do everything we can now, while Speaker Pelosi said she's willing to cut off all imports of Russian oil?"

Blinken didn't deny Tapper's points, seeming to acknowledge they're letting the Europeans lead on this when saying they're imposing their sanctions "in coordination with Europeans." The Biden administration is even checking in with other countries before taking action. 

The best Blinken could offer, it seemed, about oil, was to mention that there's been "a very active discussion."
 if there's a loophole on one side or the other, we're closing it. That's part of the work that I was doing here.

"And when it comes to oil, Russian oil, I was on the phone yesterday with the president and other members of the Cabinet on exactly this subject. And we are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil, while making sure that there is a still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets," Blinken explained. "That's a very active discussion as we speak."

During his appearance on "Meet the Press," host Chuck Todd reminded Blinken that banning Russian oil imports was also on the list of requests from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who met virtually with 280 U.S. lawmakers on Saturday morning

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Blinken reiterated that the best he can offer is "very active discussions," and that, again, they are in coordination with "our European partners." 

As a follow-up, Todd mentioned what likely so many more are thinking. "So, it's interesting you added the 'in coordination.' We will not do this unilaterally. The United States is not going to do this unilaterally," he asked.

Blinken actually responded that relying on going along with what others have been doing has been "a hallmark" for the administration. "A hallmark of everything we've done to date has been this coordination with allies and partners. We are much more effective across the board when we're doing things together in as close a coordination as possible," he said. "There are instances where we each do something a little bit different, but it complements the whole. So in the first instance, we want to make sure that we're acting in coordination. I'm not going to rule out taking action one way or another, irrespective of what they do, but everything we've done, the approach starts with coordinating with allies and partners."

Blinken's remarks were quickly seized upon.

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This appears to be a pattern of leading from behind, including and especially when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sanctions. The Biden administration appears to be waiting for signals from other nations before joining in on sanctions, including when it comes to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. 

It didn't help complaints of gaslighting that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted a lengthy thread on Sunday doubling down on gaslighting to promote the administration's narrative that so-called "clean energy technologies" are the way to go.

Her thread came not long after it was announced that the average price of gasoline is now above $4.00, according to AAA's page on gas prices. 

Psaki also made comments during a Friday press conference, as Spencer highlighted, claiming that rising gas prices have nothing to do with Biden's policies, but rather are because of the Russian invasion. In his coverage, he aptly pointed out that gas prices have risen throughout Biden's presidency.

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As I covered on Saturday, even Democratic lawmakers, including those in leadership, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) are in favor of banning Russian oil. After speaking with Zelensky during that Saturday morning meeting, Durbin felt compelled to sign onto legislation sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), known as the Ban Russian Energy Imports Act. 

Energy independence has been a concern since literally the first day of Biden's presidency, after he signed an executive order canceling the Keystone Pipeline.

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