Russia’s state-run oil company Rosneft is now the only major supplier of oil to Venezuela, necessary as socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s regime has failed to exploit the nation’s vast oil reserves, according to a report from The Financial Times on Thursday.
Data seen by the British daily showed that Rosneft provided Venezuela’s entire imports of oil in June, sending eight cargos totaling around 1.7 million barrels. Venezuela’s dependence on Rosneft consequently places Moscow in a position of “unprecedented leverage” over the socialist regime as they face increasing international isolation, the publication argued.
“Venezuela’s gasoline supplies depend on Russia,” a knowledgable source told the Times. “The day Russia stops supplying gasoline, Venezuela grinds to a halt.”
Despite having the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela is experiencing chronic shortages of gasoline that have forced the regime to start rationing supplies, creating long queues of cars and waiting times of up to five days.
Russia has long been one of Maduro’s most important international backers, providing crucial financial, strategic, and military support at a time when the majority of Western democracies have backed efforts by the United States to remove Maduro from power and support a transition to democracy under legitimate President Juan Guaidó. While constitutionally in charge of the country, Guaidó has failed to secure control of the political apparatus or military that Maduro refuses to give up.
Rosneft’s commitments in Venezuela remain one of the key elements of that support, having spent more than $7 billion on crude oil deliveries since 2014 as well as buying up many of the country’s oil fields. The Trump administration has reportedly considered sanctioning the company over its involvement in Venezuela but has so far decided against the idea for fear of broader geopolitical consequences.
The news of Venezuela’s dependence on Russian oil comes as the U.S. imposes its latest round of sanctions against the Maduro regime, freezing all its U.S. based assets, as well as those of individuals or entities understood to be providing material support to the regime.
Previous rounds of sanctions have targeted the country’s state-run oil industry, Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA), as well as senior socialist officials and their families. However, Reuters reported in April that the regime has managed to avoid the impact of some economic sanctions by passing over invoices from its oil sales to Rosneft, which then returns the proceeds to the regime at a hefty premium.