(NewsNation) — Despite all the Western sanctions being put on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, following the county’s unprovoked attacks on Ukraine, none have been put on the country’s oil and gas yet.
This means that higher gas prices resulting from the invasion are helping to fund Putin’s war, NewsNation’s Leland Vittert said on “Morning in America.”
“Every gallon of gas you buy at $4.50 or $5 a gallon — that represents how much Vladimir Putin is getting for every barrel of oil he is selling,” Vittert said.
Even though the rest of Putin’s economy is hurting, oil and gas are where Russia gets most of its money. The United States imported more than 20.4 million barrels of crude and refined products a month on average in 2021 from Russia, about 8% of U.S. liquid fuel imports, according to the Energy Information Administration.
“50% of his economy is coming from the sale of oil and gas, and so far that has not been sanctioned by the United States or by any of our allies,” Vittert said.
There’s been talk in Washington about a ban on the import of gasoline into the United States or oil in the United States that comes from Russia, Vittert said. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that U.S. and European allies were discussing doing so, and so did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But, “It’s not going to really do much,” Vittert said, “except probably drive the price up even further because Vladimir Putin can turn around and sell that same barrel of oil, a gallon of gas, he was going to sell to the United States to the Chinese to the Japanese or the Malaysians and again use that higher price to finance this war.”
Historically, when Putin feels flush with cash, “He goes on an adventure,” Vittert said.
“It’s no different than any of us when we get a big raise or win the lottery, so to speak,” he said. “All of a sudden you’re going to out and start buying things.”
It’s not necessarily “things” Putin is after, though. Vittert said billionaires like Putin don’t necessarily need more yachts for themselves or their oligarchs.
What Putin wants, Vittert said, is to invade other countries.
“He wants to rebuild the Soviet Union, so high gas prices, high oil prices are a gift to him,” Vittert said. “Then he can go out and make mischief.”
Western allies will always implement incremental sanctions on Russia because politicians want to be seen as doing something, Vittert said. So far, the sanctions have included exports of technologies to Russia’s refineries and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, as well as the country’s largest banks.
Unless these global leaders go after Russia’s energy sector, though, people will continue to see higher gas prices, Vittert said, and this pain at the pump will translate into higher prices for everything else people consume.
“Everything that we buy comes from oil,” Vittert pointed out. “If you think about getting food delivery tomorrow, the plastic fork and knife that come with that food delivery, they’re going to cost more because petroleum products go into making the plastic fork and knife. Everything will cost more and more.”
Reuters contributed to this report.