NEWSWATCH Reuters: U.S. faces meager options for further Russia energy sanctions

Oil Wells File Photo

[“U.S. faces meager options for further Russia energy sanctions” – Reuters – Timothy Gardner – March 23, 2015]

Reuters examines Western sanctions on Russia, including some of the remaining options for energy-related sanctions.

Energy is the economic lifeblood of Russia, which vies with the United States and Saudi Arabia to be the world’s top oil producer …the sector is the main target of Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the conflict in Ukraine.
… current sanctions have already hit the easiest targets in Russia’s high-tech exploration projects in the Arctic, Siberian shale, and deep-sea. That leaves the United States with less palatable options, such as trying to target the country’s oil exports, as it has done with Iran.

Oil prices have plummeted, but Europe reportedly is skittish over energy-related repercussions, such as Russia tweaking gas supplies. And U.S.-European unity on sanctions is a key factor.

Even though global oil prices have dropped by roughly half since last year, the United States’ European allies remain skittish over any damaging repercussions on energy supplies.
Russia could respond by squeezing the gas exports on which Europe relies heavily.
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Cracks are showing in European support for more sanctions. Going alone on sanctions is not a realistic option for Washington since it would block U.S. energy companies from collaborating with Russia and let European ones in.

Among other questions is whether there will be an effort to cut off Russian access to SWIFT.

The bluntest sanctions tool available would be to block Russia access to the SWIFT global electronic banking system, as the West did with Iran. Russian bankers and officials have described this as a nuclear option that would lead to full economic warfare.


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