Feb 25, 2022 - News

Rep. Womack: Biden could help reduce Europe's reliance on Russian oil

Ranking member Rep. Steve Womack. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

As President Biden issued harsh new sanctions against Russia Thursday for its invasion of Ukraine, Rep. Steve Womack told Axios the administration didn't go far enough.

Context: Because Europe relies on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas supplies, some NATO countries may be hesitant to cut the country out of SWIFT, a sort of central nervous system for international financial transactions.

  • Biden should have said the U.S. would produce more oil and gas at home for export to the European market, reducing its dependence on Russia, Womack said.

"America has abundant supplies of energy, we could be a major supplier for our friends in that area of the world. It could help us, and it could help them," Womack told Axios.

Plus: Though he would have liked to have seen ​​Russia disconnected from the SWIFT banking system, Womack generally agrees with the U.S. economic sanctions and support of NATO.

The big picture: It's too early to tell how Arkansas will be impacted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The state's exports to Russia don't even rank in federal economic data, and there's no indication military stationed here will be deployed.

  • Tyson Foods told Axios that Russia and Ukraine are not significant export markets.

Yes, but: We know that prices for oil and wheat will likely rise across the country, as Sen. Tom Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette before the invasion.

What's next: Womack hopes the invasion doesn't turn into prolonged combat and he doesn't support — at least now — U.S. troops getting directly involved in a war.

  • "I am praying that the limit of what Putin will do will be just to replace the government there with his own puppet government and pull the heck out of there," Womack said.

What others said: Arkansas lawmakers expressed condemnation mixed with calls for consequences following Russia's invasion of Ukraine Wednesday night.

  • "An invasion of a sovereign nation cannot stand uncontested. I hope you'll join me tonight in praying for the people of Ukraine and for a unified allied response," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
  • "Tonight we pray for the people of Ukraine as their freedom and safety are under grave assault. History will show they have not sought this conflict, but are justified in defending their sovereignty with courage and clarity," Sen. John Boozman tweeted.

Of note: Denise Thomas, CEO of Arkansas World Trade Center, told Axios that a webinar with former U.S. ambassadors to foreign countries to discuss potential Arkansas trade with Russia had been scheduled for this week. It was canceled due to icy road conditions.

  • It will eventually be rescheduled.

Keep up to date on the latest development with Axios' Ukraine-Russia crisis dashboard.


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