Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine is backed by $285m (£217m) in oil payments European countries make daily, a new analysis from the Transport & Environment (T&E) think tank has found.
The study estimates that last year Russia received $104 billion from oil, gasoline and diesel exports to Europe, more than double the $43 billion it received from gas supplies.
The analysis, by a European non-governmental organization dedicated to environmentally friendly transport, was published shortly before the US and UK decided to ban Russian oil imports, and after Shell announced plans to close its Russian gas stations and spot oil purchases.
“Gas is understandably a concern, but it is oil that is funding Putin’s war,” said William Todts, director of T&E. “By relying on it, Europeans are in danger of rising prices in an increasingly uncertain world.”
Europe’s reliance on Russia for about a quarter of its crude oil imports has helped fuel US pressure to ban imports, even as Brent oil prices soared to $139 a barrel.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Monday that any withdrawal from Russian oil would have “catastrophic consequences” and could push prices up to $300 a barrel.
Between 2004 and 2017, Europe imported more than 200 million tons of oil from Russia each year, upping its purchases in the two years since Russia seized Crimea in 2014.
According to T&E, the energy stranglehold held by Russia and other countries with a bad human rights record highlights the urgent need to move towards clean energy solutions.
“We should not just trade Russian oil for Saudi oil,” Todts said. “The time has come to significantly increase the efficiency of transport and accelerate the electrification of transport in order to reduce oil consumption.”
Russia is the source of almost four out of every five barrels of oil in Slovakia and two-thirds of the barrels in Poland, Lithuania and Finland, while in Germany 29.7% of oil products come from Russia, the study said. The UK and Italy import about 12% of their oil and petroleum products from Russia, while Portugal imports only 4%.
Restrictions on Russian oil imports were absent from the EU energy strategy presented today in Brussels, which instead focused on storing and diversifying gas supplies.
However, “nothing has been decided,” EU Commissioner for Environmental Deals Frans Timmermans said on Monday. “The barbarism that Putin is now displaying in Ukraine must be dealt with decisively, and with measures that will hurt him, even if they can hurt us.”
The economic damage from the embargo will be keenly felt in Germany, Europe’s biggest importer of Russian oil, which paid $23.6 billion to Moscow last year, followed by Poland ($14.7 billion) and the Netherlands ($11.4 billion).