In Latest Humiliation For Biden Admin, Russian Oil Is Trading Above The G7 Price Cap Everywhere

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Apr 12, 2024 - 02:30 AM

Back in late 2022, when "Western democracies" bombastically unveiled theatrical sanctions against Putin, capping the price at which imports of Russian oil were permitted to no higher than $60, we said that this was one of the biggest farces in modern history, not only because it was an optical play that was made entirely for public consumption (as nobody in the west actually wanted to curtail Russian oil exports as the outcome would be a devastating surge of inflation as Biden now realizes), but also because there was no enforcement mechanism to cap the price at $60 and no more.

We were right, again, and today Bloomberg reports that "Russian oil is trading far in excess of a Group of Seven price cap that’s supposed to deprive Moscow of revenue for its war in Ukraine, suggesting significant non-compliance with the measure", which anyone with half a working brain would have expected to happen, which of course excludes virtually all "democratic" bureaucrats who implemented this idiotic sanction (which only ended up making the Vitol oil traders billionaires).

According to data from Argus Media, whose price assessments are followed by some G-7 nations involved in the cap, Russian flagship Urals grade oil is now selling for $75 a barrel at the point it leaves ports in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. A Treasury official told Bloomberg that US officials are tracking the price increase, which they attribute to broader geopolitical dynamics, as the alternative - admitting they are idiots, would be a bit too introspective.

As a reminder, the Russian embaro cap requires that any western company involved in transporting Russian oil receives a so-called attestation, a document vouching that the cargo cost $60-a barrel or less. If it doesn’t, they’re not allowed to provide their services. The fact that Argus’s prices are so far above that level creates what Bloomberg called a "dissonance", but what we would call, a giant slap on the face of the Biden administration which nobody takes seriously any more.

While Urals has been above $60 almost all year, this month’s surge to well above $70 will stretch the credibility of those attestations for traders wanting to keep using western services. Not like anyone actually thought those attestations had any credibility to begin with since the governments enforcing them were so clearly interested in having everyone ignore them.

Bloomberg data showed that in March, 23% of the nation’s crude oil shipments had insurance against spills and collisions provided by members of the International Group of P&I Clubs. That means traders would have vouched that the cargoes cost well below where Argus assessed the Urals price to be, which was clearly not the case, and means that at least a quarter of Russian oil shippers are fabricating data. A smaller proportion moved on Greek tankers, all of which had cover from IG clubs, also requiring attestation.

Hilariously, the idiots in the Biden admin told Bloomberg that the cap is still having its intended effect, reducing the amount of money the Kremlin receives from oil sales by forcing the commodity to either be sold under the cap via western services, or through Russia’s shadow fleet. Which, of course, is absolutely not the case and Putin is currently rolling in the cash from selling oil to the same European nations that are supplying Ukraine with their most modern weapons which Putin then handily blows up and reverse engineers. The US plans to continue the enforcement of the cap by sanctioning vessels operating in the shadow fleet, but will not do so in response to any specific market moves, the official said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, and for the reason that it would be extremely embarrassing if his name were to become public.

A European Commission spokesperson said the bloc is aware of the risk of the price cap being dodged, and is committed to steps that deprive Russia of revenue while simultaneously “supporting global energy market stability.” It’s also constantly reviewing existing measures to enforce the cap and prevent its violation or circumvention, the spokesperson said, adding that such measures require unanimity among member states. In other words, Europe knew from day one that the Russian oil embargo was not going to work, and now, a year and a half later, is blame the lack of "unity" for this farce.

The bloc’s most recent sanctions package was aimed at tighten the cap’s enforcement, the spokesperson said; clearly the package did not achieve the "desired outcome."

Of course, it's not just Russia that is rolling in dough: by the time Urals cargoes get to India, the grade is trading at $88 a barrel — just $3.80 below than the global benchmark for physical cargoes, Dated Brent, Argus data show. When the nation’s ESPO crude leaves the port of Kozmino in eastern Russia, it is at $84 a barrel. It hasn’t been close to the price cap for about a year.

Bloomberg concludes that since last October, "the US Treasury has shown it’s prepared to punish companies for breaches of the price cap that happened in the past" however, given its desire to avoid any actions that disrupt the flow of crude — and risk higher prices — the rally in headline Brent futures to around $90 a barrel may temper any push to do so at this time.

In other words... well, this: