The Washington Post has revealed that the Pentagon is skirting US sanctions against Russia by continuing to purchase petroleum products made from Russian oil through a Greek refinery. This is in spite of an ongoing embargo against the country. The Motor Oil Hellas refinery located on the Aegean Sea in Greece has been the key supplier of fuel to the US military. The Russian oil products have been making their way to the Greek refinery by first being sent from Russian Black Sea ports to an oil storage facility in Turkey, before ultimately reaching Greece.
The route taken by the Russian oil products has helped to disguise their origin, as they reportedly change hands multiple times before ultimately reaching Greece. The Motor Oil Hellas refinery officially sourced its fuel from the Dortyol shipping terminal in Turkey, but data has shown that Russian deliveries to Dortyol have totaled 2.7 million barrels since the sanctions took effect in February. This amounts to more than 69% of the fuel oil shipped by sea during that period. Analysts have confirmed that the Russian fuel is, in fact, reaching the Motor Oil Hellas refinery.
Shipments sent from Russia to the Dortyol terminal are initially conducted by the Russian oil major, Rosneft. Once the cargo is loaded onto tankers, it is then purchased by a firm based in the United Arab Emirates. Despite the Russian origin of the fuel, by the time it arrives in Greece, it is no longer marked as Russian. It is refined and mixed into a supply that is sold to the US military.
It’s unclear how much of the fuel purchased by the Pentagon is of Russian origin, as it is refined using multiple ingredients that cannot all be tracked. However, federal contracting data has shown that the Pentagon has signed nearly $1 billion worth of new contracts with Motor Oil Hellas since the embargo on Russian oil took effect in early March 2022.
The effect of the embargo is not limited to the US military alone, as more than a million barrels of jet fuel have been shipped from the Greek refinery to government and corporate buyers in Italy, France, Spain, and the UK since the ban on Russian oil products was imposed in February.
The revelation of the Pentagon skirting its own sanctions against Russia has raised concerns about the efficacy of the measures put in place to restrict trade with the country. It also puts a spotlight on the complex nature of global oil supply chains, where products can change hands and be refined in multiple countries before ultimately reaching their destination.
The evasion of US sanctions by the Pentagon and the European buyers of Russian oil products calls for a closer examination of the mechanisms and enforcement of such sanctions. It also highlights the need for stronger international cooperation and transparency in tracking and regulating the trade of embargoed goods. These issues are fundamental to maintaining the integrity of embargo and sanctions regimes and ensuring that they achieve their intended goals.