The US Congress voted Thursday to end normal trade ties with Moscow and codify the ban on Russian oil, as the White House ramps up pressure on President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
The legislation — which also applies to Russian ally Belarus and allows President Joe Biden to implement significant tariff hikes on imports — was passed unanimously by the Senate before being approved by the House of Representatives.
Biden announced the moves last month in a speech arguing that Russia must “pay the price” for the bloodshed in its ex-Soviet neighbor, where it has denied accusations of committing atrocities.
“Putin must absolutely be held accountable for the odious, despicable war crimes he is committing against Ukraine: the images we have seen coming out of that country … are just pure evil,” said Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer.
“It reminds us of the worst moments in human history, caused by the bad man, Putin: hundreds of civilians murdered in cold blood.”
An important principle of the World Trade Organization called most favored nation status known in the United States as Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) requires countries to guarantee each other that they treat each other equally in terms of tariffs and regulations.
The latest trade sanction, which the House passed with the support of every Democrat and just three Republicans who voted no, ends several rounds of measures primarily designed to sever Moscow’s economic and financial ties with the rest of the world.
They include a ban on Russian oil imports — a measure Biden has already implemented by executive order — seizing the assets of billionaires tied to Putin, and freezing the country’s stockpile of cash. .
Together, the measures have already brought Moscow to the brink of a debt crisis.
The measures have also caused prices for key commodities, such as gasoline and wheat, to rise, hurting US consumers who are already experiencing the highest inflation rate in four decades.
The United States imported just under $30 billion worth of goods from Russia last year, including $17.5 billion in crude oil.
The legislation includes a measure to re-approve the sanctions of the Magnitsky Act targeting human rights violations and corruption with visa bans, asset freezes and other penalties.
The United States moved on Wednesday to block foreign investment in Russia and state-owned enterprises and imposed further sanctions on the country’s banks and senior officials.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC News that global punishments had sent the Russian economy into a “deep recession”.
“And what we’re seeing is a likely contraction of the Russian economy by about 15 percent,” he said.
“That’s dramatic… We’ve seen an exodus from Russia of pretty much every major corporation in the world. And Putin has basically shut Russia off from the world in a matter of weeks.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)