The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Tag: anti-Russia Sanctions

The Delusional Dishonesty of the G7 Russian Oil Price Cap


Members of the G7 have agreed to impose a price cap on Russian oil in a bid to hit Moscow’s ability to finance the war in Ukraine.

Finance ministers said the cap on crude oil and petroleum products would also help reduce global energy prices. The cap will be set at a level based on a range of technical inputs.

“We will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” the G7 said.

Russia said it would stop selling oil to countries that imposed price caps.

Well, so the price cap is effectively a “we won’t buy it because you won’t sell it” policy.

There’s long been a delusion that commodities like oil are global. They operated almost as if they were for a while, but oil is produces in certain places, refined in certain places and shipped in specific pipelines, ships, trucks and trains. It has different qualities and not all refineries can handle all types of crude.

To the extent, however, that oil or natural gas or coal or whatever is subject to boycotts, it becomes less of a global market and that won’t generally decrease prices, rather the reverse, at least in the early phases of a breakdown of a global market. (In the late phase prices will diverge significantly in different countries, with extensive measures or realities in place to prevent arbitrage.)

So (2)…

UK Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said the G7 were “united against this barbaric aggression”, adding the price cap would “curtail Putin’s capacity to fund his war”.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a cap would also help fight inflation, which is on the rise in many of the world’s economies.

The price cap helps achieve “our dual goals of putting downward pressure on global energy prices while denying Putin revenue to fund his brutal war in Ukraine”, she said.

Sanctions have not reduced Russia’s income, they have increased it. This won’t be an exception because most of the world isn’t onside with sanctions, including India, China, virtually all of Africa and most of South America, but by fragmenting the market it will increase prices, especially in specific areas like Europe which need to get their hydrocarbons (remember, this is not a virtual good, it has to be extracted, refined and shipped), through specific infrastructure links.

The “price cap” is thus largely a symbolic measure, which will if anything increase prices somewhat. That’s not to say it’s useless, if the plan is a new long Cold War with Russia (and almost certainly China), getting off supplies from those two countries needs to be done and done in stages.

But it sure isn’t going to decrease prices or empty Putin’s treasury. In fact, in the short to middle term it’s likely to hurt Europe, again, far more than Russia.


Germany Is Being Crushed By “Anti-Russia” Sanctions

One does have to wonder who anti-Russian sanctions are actually designed to hurt.

German producer price inflation in May.

German trade balance:

Hey, the first negative trade balance in 30 years. Of course, it’s not very negative yet, but wow, that’s a decline.


Top German industries could face collapse because of cuts in the supplies of Russian natural gas, the country’s top union official warned before crisis talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz starting Monday.

“Because of the gas bottlenecks, entire industries are in danger of permanently collapsing: aluminum, glass, the chemical industry,” said Yasmin Fahimi, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “Such a collapse would have massive consequences for the entire economy and jobs in Germany.”

The German economy is essentially mercantalist. The Euro, because it includes countries which are net importers, has been  undervalued. The Germans bought cheap materials, made them into high value goods and got pretty rich.

Now the Euro collapsing (it’s almost down to even with the dollar), but it’s not collapsing enough and in any case there’s a problem, one which has been forgotten in the global order.

Physical objects, like natural gas and aluminum and oil and so on are dug up in certain places, refined in other places and shipped thru specific pipelines or on specific trucks over specific roads, or specific trains over specific railroads. They cannot be magically replaced if you cut off a large supplier, and even when they can be replaced they may cost a lot more money and the replacement isn’t instant, as with buying US natural gas.

The PPI increase is “if you can even get it.”

Germany is a manufacturing state which does not have a lot of natural resources in its own borders. It must be a trading state, and Russia was the cheapest place to get a lot of what it needed, plus there isn’t enough excess on the global market to make every good and even when there is it requires logistical solutions (ports, ships, rail lines, refineries, etc…) which are not in place.

Meanwhile the EU has sanctioned goods coming from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. It turns out that Xinjiang produces about half of the world’s supply of polysilicon, which is the primary ingredient in solar panels.

It is to laugh.

Germany is committing economic suicide over Ukraine, and Germany is the industrial heartland of the EU.

Some bottlenecks just aren’t going to be broken without some sort of deal or cut-out, the supply isn’t there.

Others can be dealt with by paying more, some will require money and time measured in years. Europe is going to wind up going nuclear, there’s no other way to make the numbers work. (So will Japan and many other nations.)

But overall the people saying that the EU was hurt more by Russian sanctions are correct.

Now don’t think this is anti-democratic: polls show that most Europeans want to cut off trade ties with Russia.

But we’ll see how they feel as they take the hits required to do so.


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