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EU Struggles to Enforce $60-Per-Barrel Cap on Russian Oil


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In December of last year, the European Union implemented a bold move by banning imports of Russian crude oil in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

A year later, the effectiveness of this embargo is under scrutiny, as Russian oil sales continue, and the EU faces challenges in enforcing its sanctions. This article delves into the reasons behind the apparent failure of the embargo, exploring the economic, geopolitical, and environmental dimensions of the ongoing situation.


1. The Unintended Outcomes of the Russian Oil Ban:


Contrary to the EU’s expectations, the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) estimates that Russia is set to make $178 billion from oil sales this year, with potential earnings reaching $200 billion in the coming year. While these figures are lower than pre-embargo revenues, they reveal that Russia has quickly adapted, capitalizing on shifts in global oil dynamics.


2. Shadow Tankers and Evasion Strategies:


The EU’s attempt to cap Russian oil prices at $60 per barrel faced resistance as Russian entities acquired aging tanker fleets from Western companies. These “shadow tankers” operate outside Western control, making them, in essence, “sanction-proof.” The KSE suggests there are at least 187 such tankers carrying Russian crude, challenging the EU’s ability to enforce price controls and further diminishing the impact of the embargo.


3. Challenges in Enforcing Sanctions:


Despite efforts to enforce sanctions, the EU and the G7 face practical challenges. Economist Maria Demertzis highlights the difficulty in monitoring and preventing countries, especially those in the Gulf, from buying and selling energy to third countries. Political will has also been a significant obstacle, as evidenced by the initial global neutrality or support for Russia during the invasion, hindering the EU and G7’s ability to garner broader international support for the embargo.


4. Rising Defiance and Economic Realities:


Russia’s decision to increase defence and security spending by 70% for the next year signals Moscow’s confidence in overcoming economic challenges posed by sanctions. With the Russian budget already 13% higher than the previous year, driven by expected oil earnings, Moscow appears to be banking on the assumption that global powers will not sustain efforts to curtail its oil revenue.


5. Potential for Further Enforcement and Impact on Oil Prices:


Despite the challenges, there are signs that the EU and the G7 are intensifying efforts to enforce the $60-per-barrel price cap. Recent sanctions on tankers indicate a growing resolve, but analysts like Jan Stockbruegger caution that complete exclusion of Russian oil from global markets is not viable. The delicate balance between global oil supply, prices, and political considerations underscores the complex nature of enforcing sanctions.


6. The Role of Renewable Energy in Europe’s Energy Landscape:


While Russian oil sales continue, Europe’s increasing reliance on renewable energy offers a glimmer of hope. Ember, a London-based think tank, reports that wind and solar power generated a record 28% of Europe’s electricity in the first 10 months of this year. The shift towards sustainable energy sources not only aligns with environmental goals but also reduces dependence on fossil fuels, potentially impacting Russia’s oil revenue in the long run.



In conclusion, the EU’s attempt to curb Russian oil revenue through a ban has faced considerable challenges, from the resilience of the Russian oil industry to the complexities of enforcing sanctions. As geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, the article underscores the significance of renewable energy trends in shaping Europe’s energy landscape and the broader implications for global oil markets.

Abu Bakr Alvi
Abu Bakr Alvi
Mr. Abu Bakr Alvi, Senior Journalist Based in Faisalabad

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