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Sanctions on Russia and the Splintering of the World Oil Market
AEI
2024.02.22
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Western governments have imposed a complex set of embargoes and sanctions on Russia’s oil industry. While the US and its allies have long used sanctions as a tool of economic statecraft against oil exporters, the sanctions on Russia target one of the world’s two largest exporters (the other being Saudi Arabia). Moreover, these sanctions come after two decades in which the US has imposed sanctions on other significant oil exporters, including Venezuela and Iran, limiting these countries’ production and export capabilities too.
This report explores how the sanctions on Russia have affected the world oil market. It has three primary findings. First, a larger share of world oil production is under some form of Western sanction today than at any point in a half century. Second, sanctions have caused a significant shift in oil export patterns, rerouting trade flows in an economically inefficient manner and forcing sanctioned countries such as Iran, Russia, and Venezuela to sell crude at below-market prices. Third, the primary beneficiaries of discounted sanctioned oil are China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which can buy oil at below-market prices.