The White House on Monday pushed back on concerns about the Biden administration’s willingness to cut deals with countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela as it looks for ways to blunt skyrocketing fuel prices in the United States.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced multiple questions during Monday’s briefing on how the administration views these trade-offs of bartering with countries “that may have engaged in unsavory actions in the past,” as reports trickled out in recent days that President Joe Biden and European counterparts are discussing a ban on Russian oil imports to further punish President Vladimir Putin for his country’s attack on Ukraine.
The Biden administration is in a tricky position as it faces bipartisan calls to ban Russian oil, a move that would upend markets in a global economy still recovering from the pandemic. As the White House weighs its next move, inflation tops the minds of Americans feeling the squeeze of rising prices, especially at the gas pump.
U.S. officials met face-to-face with Venezuelan officials in Caracas over the weekend and discussed potentially easing oil sanctions on the country as part of the strategy to combat rising prices in the U.S. During Monday’s briefing, Psaki was asked about Venezuela’s leader and whether it was “really worth doing business with a despot like Nicolás Maduro to drive down gas prices.”
“I think that’s leaping several stages ahead in any process,” Psaki said, adding that oil was just one element of the discussions. “At this point in time, I don’t have anything to predict. It’s ongoing.”
Psaki said that while energy security was a key part of the meetings in Venezuela, U.S. officials also discussed the welfare of detained U.S. citizens. She had a similar message on negotiations in Saudi Arabia and Iran, noting that the talks were in progress and that energy was just one piece of the multipronged discussions.
TL:DR version: US is like “yeah we’ve been sanctioning you hard for like forever man, but times have changed man, can you spare some oil like c’mon man”