The US has rapidly increased its oil imports from Russia, with a total of 13 tankers carrying five million barrels of crude and oil products arriving in the first half of May amid dropping Venezuelan crude production due to Washington's sanctions, Bloomberg reported, citing Caracas Capital Markets managing partner Russ Dallen. The latter described Russia's crude export as being "on steroids", stating that the import of Russian oil by American refineries is set to triple.
The news agency noted that total US oil imports in February 2019 were estimated at over 16 million barrels, while a year ago it stood at 20 million barrels. Over the course of 2017, the US imported 1.5 million barrels of oil from Russia, with the number growing the following year, amounting to 7.5 million barrels.
Washington's sanctions have impacted Venezuelan oil exports, but haven't crippled them completely. The decline in Venezuela's oil exports, along with production cuts by OPEC+ countries, has led to a rise in oil prices. The US claims that the sanctions were imposed in order to force elected President Nicolas Maduro, who is struggling to lead his country out of a political crisis amid economic problems, to resign.
The White House has also imposed sanctions against Russian oil producers, cutting them off from US-made equipment and some foreign investment, claiming that Moscow was behind the Ukrainian crisis in 2014 and meddled in the 2016 US presidential elections. Russia has denied all the accusations, pointing to a lack of evidence.
The US also plans to impose sanctions against Russia's major Nord Stream 2 gas project in Europe in a bid to persuade the EU to switch to other energy sources, such as American liquefied natural gas (LNG).