The contentious issue of Russia’s oil and gas exports again found its way into India’s bilateral engagements with the other states. This time it was highlighted in the press conference held by the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. S Jaishankar and his German counterpart, Minister Annalena Baerbock following their bilateral meeting. India has been on the receiving end of some criticism over not taking a harsh stand against Russia since the launch of the war in Ukraine. While India attempts to maintain its balancing act, there is a need to acknowledge that the moral responsibility of taking a stand on the international floor cannot be pinned to just one country. This responsibility falls on the international community as a whole and this is where the press conference in question becomes important to pay attention to.
It was again mentioned that India has continued to purchase Russian oil and gas since the beginning of the war, terming it as the symbol for India’s complacency and subsequent support for Russia’s actions. However, Mr Jaishankar was quick to dismiss this claim and pointed to Europe’s role in purchasing Russian oil, gas and coal. If the numbers are to be trusted, the European Union remains to be the largest importer of Russian oil and gas. “The oil import in the European Union is six times what India has imported” said Mr Jaishankar in this regard.
It was during this discussion that attention was brought to a website called the Russia Fossil Tracker which is created by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. The data collated on this website tracks the country by country purchase of fossil fuel resources of Russia and the subsequent monetary gains made on them. In order to collect reliable data, the researchers have also tracked the ship voyages from Russian ports and tracked their route to other countries.
So why did Mr. Jaishankar focus particularly on the purchase of Russian oil and gas made by Europe vis-a-vis the other countries?
Imports to Europe
In order to establish the role of the European Union in this regard, let’s first talk statistics.
Ever since the beginning of the Russian war in Ukraine, Russia has gained about 245 billion EUR (approximately 257 billion USD) from energy exports alone. Out of these global payments, 64 per cent revenue belongs to oil exports, 28 per cent to fossil gas exports and about 8 per cent to coal exports. Oil here refers to crude oil as well as oil based products.
Now let us bring the attention to Europe. Out of Russia’s total earnings, about 123 billion EUR ( approximately 129 billion USD) was contributed by the European countries. Out of this figure, 55 per cent share belongs to the purchase of oil, 43 per cent to fossil gas and 2 per cent to coal. In the first six months of the war itself, starting from February 24th 2022, the monetary value of the imports to the European countries amounted to about 85 billion EUR (approximately 89 billion USD).
Imports in the first 100 days of the Invasion: February 24th to June 4th
Source: Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air
It has to be noted that within the EU, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, France occupy the status of the highest importers of fossil fuels from Russia. Their combined energy purchases would surpass China’s imports that hold the highest position in the individual analysis. In this list, India falls at the eighth position amongst the largest buyers of Russian oil and gas.
Now, To put all of this numerical data into perspective, fossil fuel exports have been one of the main sources of revenue for Russia and has in turn contributed to the funding of war expenses since the aggression on Ukraine has started. The surge in the oil prices following the war has further contributed to the high level of revenue derived from the exports to these countries.
Europe’s Energy Conundrum
Following the Russian invasion on Ukraine, the European Union had imposed an import ban on coal which came into force in August of this year. This led to a reduction in the coal and gas imports, however, Europe continued its dependence on Russian crude oil, oil products and pipeline gas.
While the west has criticised India on more than one occasion for buying Russian oil, it is important to note that Europe itself has been facing the same dilemma. The import cuts and bans have yet to be completely implemented and the increased dependence on crude oil further adds to the revenue generation for Russia. The deliberations on the policy of price caps on Russian imports of crude oil to Europe have been in vain as of now.
Source: Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air
As depicted, the potential impact of successfully implementing the policy of a price cap on Russian imports could reduce the expenditure significantly. However, it seems like European states are not on the same page regarding their policy as yet.
Taking this data into consideration, what becomes clear is that just like any other state, the European countries are also prioritising their energy needs in these uncertain times. While it is correct to take a unified stand on the ongoing human security violations and the breach of sovereignty in Ukraine, the moral responsibility cannot possibly fall on just a few states while the others have freedom to be realistic in their approach. In this regard the question of financing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine falls directly on Europe rather than on India or other states.