Private sector's Russia divestment has been 'remarkably swift,' expert says, as Biden drags feet on oil ban

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Private corporations have been "remarkably swift" in pulling business out of Russia amid the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine, experts told FOX Business.

Companies like BP are leaving the country.

BP announced it was dropping its 19.75% stake in Russian energy company Rosneft, according to its CEO, Bernard Looney. He will also resign from the Rosneft board.

Microsoft announced Friday it would halt new sales of products and services in Russia, saying it is "horrified" at the unprovoked war Russia is waging against Ukraine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony via a video link at a state residence outside Moscow. (Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP Via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"Like the rest of the world, we are horrified, angered and saddened by the images and news coming from the war in Ukraine and condemn this unjustified, unprovoked and unlawful invasion by Russia," Microsoft President and Vice Chairman Brad Smith said.

Microsoft joins many technology companies severing ties with Russia, including Apple, Meta, AT&T and more.

Scott Lincicome, director of general economics at the Cato Institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, told FOX Business that private companies have been "remarkably swift" in pulling business out of Russia.

"I think it's just been a remarkably swift and broad decoupling by private businesses," Lincicome said. " You know, I think it caught everybody off guard."

He said during past conflicts businesses have tried to keep their heads down but noted that this was a different situation.

"I think the global moral revulsion at what's going on in Ukraine, as well as, you know, the potential investment application have really pushed a lot of businesses to just get out in front of this and essentially either divest or stop selling into Russia," Lincicome said.

He also said it was surprising to see how quickly the United States and other countries enacted sanctions on Russia.

On Feb. 25, the United States, Canada and European allies released a joint statement announcing that "selected" Russian banks would be removed from the SWIFT financial system.

A senior Biden administration official compared the financial system to "Gmail for banks," and said that the effects could be crippling.

"If one of these de-SWIFTED and Russian banks wants to make or receive a payment with a bank outside of Russia, such as a bank in Asia, it will now need to use the telephone or a fax machine," the senior administration official said. "And, in all likelihood, most banks around the world will simply stop transacting altogether with Russian banks that are removed from SWIFT." 

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A line of cars waits for gas at a BP station at the corner of East Cervantes Street and North Ninth Avenue in Pensacola, Fla., May 10, 2021.  (Reuters)

Katie Tubb, senior policy analyst for energy and environmental issues for the Heritage Foundation, also told FOX Business that she has been "encouraged" by the steps that private corporations are taking to remove business from Russia.

"They have taken a financial hit for doing so. They're walking away from the money that they will earn but that they will not recover," Tubb said.

While Tubb said that there's more that private businesses can do in this situation, she's encouraged by the response so far.

But Tubb said that the Biden administration did not do enough in terms of sanctions before Russia invaded Ukraine.

"Did they do enough before we got to this point? I would say 100%, no," Tubb said.

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President Biden addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 21, 2021, at U.N. headquarters in New York City. (Timothy A. Clary-Pool/Getty Images / Getty Images)

While many U.S Senators and House members are calling on the Biden administration to ban all oil imports from Russia, no announcement has been made by the administration.

During a press conference Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it wasn't in the United States' "strategic interest" to reduce the global supply of energy.

"We don't have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy, and that would raise prices at the gas pump for the American people," she added. "And it's as simple as less supply raises prices, and that is certainly a big factor for the president at this moment."

Fox News' Caitlin McFall contributed to this report

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