Russian oil exports increased in April, and rising prices mean that Russia has earned 50 percent more in revenues this year compared to the same period in 2021, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency in Paris. India and Turkey, a NATO member, have increased their purchases. South Korea is buying less but remains a major customer, as does China, which criticizes U.S. sanctions. The result is a Russian war machine still powered by petrodollars.
American officials are looking at “what can be done in the more immediate term to reduce the revenues that the Kremlin is generating from selling oil, and make sure countries outside the sanctions coalition, like China and India, don’t undercut the sanctions by just buying more oil,” said Edward Fishman, who oversaw sanctions policy at the State Department after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
The U.S. government could also cut off most Russian access to payments for oil. Washington would do this by issuing a regulation that requires foreign banks dealing in payments to put the money in an escrow account if they want to avoid sanctions. Russia would be able to access the money only to purchase essential goods like food and medicine.
And as those mechanisms are put in place, U.S. officials would press nations to gradually decrease their purchases of Russian oil, as they did with Iranian oil.
“There wouldn’t be a ban on Russian oil and gas per se,” said Maria Snegovaya, a visiting scholar at George Washington University who has studied sanctions on Russia. “Partly this is because that would send the price skyrocketing. Russia can benefit from a skyrocketing price.”
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