France economy

US Threatens Tough Sanctions, Warns Russia Not to ‘Weaponize’ Energy

Published on: Amended:

Washington (AFP) – The United States on Tuesday warned Russia of damaging sanctions, including curbs on high-tech exports, and said Moscow’s attempts to “weaponize” its massive oil and gas industry would backfire.

“We are ready to apply sanctions with massive consequences” that go far beyond the previous measures put in place in 2014 after Russia invaded the Ukrainian region of Crimea, said a senior American official.

“The gradualism of the past is over,” the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. If Russia orders another invasion of Ukraine, “we will start at the top of the escalation ladder”.

Responding to concerns in Europe that Russia could fend off sanctions by limiting its own energy exports to heavily dependent Europe, the official said Russia would also hurt.

“If Russia decides to militarize its supply of natural gas or crude oil, it will have consequences for the Russian economy,” a senior US official told reporters.

Although the European Union sources about 40% from Russia, Moscow is also heavily dependent on energy sales for its national budget, which means “it’s an interdependence”, the official said.

The United States and its European allies are scouring global markets for alternative energy sources to mitigate the fallout of any conflict, as Europe already finds itself grappling with soaring energy prices amid of winter.

“We are working with countries, companies around the world to ensure security of supply and mitigate price shocks,” the official said.

The “contingency planning” includes negotiations with suppliers in North Africa and Asia to “temporarily increase gas production”.

Liquefied natural gas carriers have already started re-routing from Asia, which has “a significant impact on the resilience of Europe’s energy supply”, according to the official.

Economic sanctions being prepared to respond to any Russian invasion of Ukraine would include previously unused restrictions on exports of high-tech US equipment, the official said.

“What we’re talking about are sophisticated technologies that we design and produce,” the official told reporters.

This would include artificial intelligence, quantum computing and aerospace technologies and would “hit quite hard on (President Vladimir) Putin’s strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy.”

“These are sectors that Putin himself has championed, as the way forward for Russia to diversify its economy beyond oil and gas,” the official said.

“And in many, many cases, if Russia wants to develop these sectors, it has to import technologies and products that only we and our allies and partners produce.”