US officials head to Europe to talk Russia oil price cap enforcement

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. Treasury Department officials will head to Europe next week to discuss enforcing the price cap on Russian oil with government officials and private business leaders, the agency said on Friday.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, and Eric Van Nostrand, assistant secretary for economic policy, will travel to Brussels on Dec. 18 and London on Dec. 19-20.

“They will be discussing the full range of policy options related to the price cap, including recent steps taken by both the U.S., the EU, and other Coalition members,” a source familiar with the travel told Reuters.

The trip comes after countries in the European Union agreed a 12th package of sanctions on Russia on Thursday including tightening the proof required from companies who claim they adhere to the Group of Seven price cap on Russian oil.

The West late last December set a $60 price cap on seaborne exports of Russian oil, part of sanctions seeking to punish Moscow for its war on Ukraine. The mechanism bans Western companies from providing the maritime services, including financing, insurance, and shipping for oil sold above the cap.

The cap has forced Russia to shift its oil sales to countries much farther away, such as China and India, and invest in a “ghost fleet” of aging tankers.

The Treasury cited a calculation by analyst Jeffrey Sonnenfeld saying those costs to export outside the cap amount to $36 per barrel and are reducing Russia’s ability to spend money on weapons in the war. Russia has been able to evade some of the impact of the sanctions as the oil price rose this year.

The U.S. Treasury began to enforce the cap in October by putting the first sanctions on owners of tankers carrying Russian oil priced above the cap. It took similar measures in November and December.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Andrea Ricci)