Biden has exhausted all of his options.
Capitol Hill lawmakers have constantly been ahead of the Biden administration regarding how the administration should approach the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. First, lawmakers pushed for an oil ban on Russia, which was ultimately adopted by the White House. Now they’re urging the administration to revoke Russia’s normal trade status.
However, lawmakers are fast approaching the limits of their pressure campaigns.
This week, the House will vote on legislation that would revoke Russia’s normal trade status in a bid to ramp up the pressure after the Biden administration implemented a ban on Russian energy imports.
The ban, which the administration initially resisted, was announced by President Joe Biden earlier last week.
Biden will also be signing a $1.3 trillion government funding bill which includes $13.6 billion, a figure far greater than the earlier $6.4 billion quoted by the administration, towards Ukrainian humanitarian efforts and military assistance.
After this most recent legislation is passed, the administration will have very few tools in its arsenal. Leading lawmakers to advocate for additional measures, like instituting no-fly zones or delivering arms directly to Ukraine, tactics Biden has ruled out.
These recent tactics also point to the growing complexities the administration is facing in trying to restrain a global nuclear power led by its unpredictable leader, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While the earlier sanctions and bans were designed to force Putin’s hand, the Russian leader, who had imperial designs on Ukraine for decades, does not seem to be perturbed by the backlash he is facing.
These latest suggestions also demonstrate the limitations Congress has in guiding the country’s response to the Ukrainian defense efforts.
But, the speed at which the administration can react has also been hampered by Biden’s insistence that the U.S. coordinate its actions with European allies in an effort to display a united front against Russia, frustrating lawmakers.
Addressing the frustrations on Friday (March 11), in a speech to House Democrats in Philadelphia, Biden said, “Folks, I know I’ve occasionally frustrated you, but more important than us moving when we want to, is making sure all of NATO is together,” with Biden adding that “They have different vulnerabilities than we do.”
As an example of their vulnerabilities, Biden referenced his decision to ban Russian oil, a move he could make given Russian equates to a small percentage of foreign energy imports in the U.S, contrasting that with European nations, who were far more reliant on Russian oil and gas.
He concluded by saying, “It took a long time sitting with my [European] counterparts and saying, ‘Look, we’re going to block oil, but I’m not going to ask you to do it.”