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Russia’s war on Ukraine: US response

© Maksym Kapliuk / Adobe Stock

Written by Matthew Parry and Marcin Szczepański.

The United States imposed a battery of sanctions and multilateral measures on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, while also providing Ukraine and its EU neighbours with military, economic and humanitarian aid.

US sanctions

The US first imposed sanctions on Russia when it annexed Crimea in 2014. Further sanctions followed when Russia recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, and invaded Ukraine in February 2022:

Joint sanctions and comparison

Some US sanctions have been coordinated with the EU and other G7 members. A major step was to block the Russian Central Bank’s reserves and cut off many banks from the SWIFT international payment system. This was followed by limits on ‘golden passports‘ and the launch of the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) task force (G7 plus Australia), which seeks to find, freeze and/or confiscate the assets of sanctioned individuals. The sanctions have come in waves, but in some fields the US has gone further than the EU, which is more exposed to Russia in terms of energy supply and investment. The US has banned all new investment in Russia (the EU just in the energy sector). The US has also prohibited all coal, LNG, and oil imports (the EU only coal and other solid fossil fuels). US export controls cover both the oil and gas sectors, (the EU targets the former, plus technology and goods used for liquefaction of natural gas).

Main US and EU sanctions as of 22 April 2022

Military aid as of 25 April 2022

The US has given Ukraine over US$4 billion in military aid since 2014, with as much as US$3.7 billion of that since the war began. It has facilitated the supply of spare parts to make 20 warplanes operational, and provided Ukraine with training and lethal aid, including heavy weaponry, such as helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery, armoured personnel carriers, drones, howitzers, anti-aircraft and anti-armour systems, and also standard weapons and munitions. The US has promised to help Ukraine transition to more advanced weapons and air defence systems that are essentially NATO capable. It has shared invaluable intelligence (satellite imagery and analysis) on the Russian invasion, but stopped short of introducing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Some EU Member States have also provided Soviet-era weapons, and received US compensation.

Humanitarian response and support for democracy and human rights

Between 2014 and 2021, the US donated more than US$351 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, in part to feed and house vulnerable Ukrainians, including those affected by the pandemic. Between 24 February and 24 March 2022, the US spent US$123 million to support the EU and neighbouring countries’ efforts to receive and host Ukrainian refugees, including US$48 million in Poland, US$10 million in Romania, US$9 million in Hungary, and US$4 million in Slovakia. On 24 March 2022, the Biden administration announced that it was preparing to provide refuge for ‘up to’ 100 000 Ukrainians, and was ‘prepared to provide’ more than US$1 billion in new humanitarian aid to support Ukrainians inside and outside Ukraine. However, reportedly, at the time of writing, the US has yet to establish a mechanism for resettling Ukrainians directly, with some trying to enter the US via Mexico. The Biden administration has also announced a further US$320 million in democracy and human rights funding for Ukraine and neighbouring democracies.

Contribution to European energy security

On 25 March 2022, President Biden and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the creation of a joint US-EU task force to diversify EU LNG supplies in alignment with shared transatlantic climate objectives, and reduce EU demand for Russian natural gas imports. As part of the first objective, the US says it will strive to increase EU imports in 2022 from the US and other international partners by at least 15 billion cubic metres (bcm), and the Commission has promised to work with Member States to lift demand for US LNG by some 50 bcm per year ‘until at least’ 2030; (in 2021, the EU imported 22 bcm of LNG from the US, and 155 bcm of all forms of natural gas from Russia). Some question the US’s ability to increase LNG exports rapidly, and the EU’s capacity to raise LNG imports, or transport them between Member States.

Prior to these announcements, members of Congress and energy industry trade groups had called on the administration to increase gas and oil exports to partners in Europe, but reportedly faced reluctance as a result of concerns about rising energy prices in the US, and trade-offs between the administration’s European energy security objectives and its ambitions to reduce US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. On 31 March 2022, the White House announced a ‘historic release’ from the US strategic petroleum reserve of 1 million barrels per day over the following six months, amounting to some 180 million barrels in total. The EU should benefit from the resulting downward pressure on the world oil price.

Efforts in multilateral institutions

The US has also acted in multilateral institutions including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and General Assembly (UNGA) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ); as well as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Group of Twenty (G20); often in tandem with the EU and other partners. On 25 February, one day after Russia’s invasion began, the US co-submitted a UNSC resolution demanding that Russia cease and withdraw. Russia, a permanent UNSC member, vetoed it. A similar text was put to the UNGA on 2 March, with the US voting with 140 other countries in support. On 23 March, the US and 12 other UNSC members abstained on, and so caused to fail, a Russia-proposed resolution on humanitarian access to Ukraine, objecting to language defending Russia’s invasion. On 7 April, the US joined 92 other countries in voting in the UNGA to suspend Russia from the UN’s Human Rights Council. The US welcomed a 16 March ICJ provisional order for Russia to halt its invasion, and on 23 March accused Russia of war crimes (neither the US nor Russia are parties to the ICJ statute). At the WTO, the US joined the EU and 12 other members in declaring on 14 March that they would cease to grant Russia WTO-derived trading privileges and discontinue work towards Belarus’s WTO accession. On 6 April, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen expressed the view that Russia should be expelled from the G20, and said that the US would boycott G20 meetings involving Russian officials. The White House has also coordinated a collective response from NATO to the invasion, not least by deploying additional forces to Europe, while making it clear that the alliance is not a co-belligerent.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘Russia’s war on Ukraine: US response‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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