In recent decades, the United States has increasingly used the means of economic warfare in its geopolitical struggles. Among these instruments – in addition to the financial markets – it most often launches geoeconomic attacks in the oil market against its geopolitical adversaries. The United States can cause significant economic damage both for oil exporter (eg. Iran, Venezuela) and oil importer (eg. Cuba, North Korea) countries by restricting their access to oil markets.
This paper analyzes the economic warfare in the oil market between the United States and Iran, Russia, and North Korea. Through these examples this paper demonstrates how the United States organizes and executes geoeconomic attacks in the oil market and how it handles country-specific problems. The United States has the means to organize broad international coalition alongside the oil market sanctions – even in the lack of UN Security Council resolutions.
United Nations has decided on a number of economic sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear program. These sanctions reduced the supply in the world oil market and resulted in about 10-20% price increase, while Iran – despite of the sanctions – found the way to sell significant amount of oil, mainly to China and India.
Russia is a member of the UN Security Council, so no UN sanctions can be imposed on it, nevertheless the United States and its allies launched a geoeconomics assault against Russia after the annexation of the Crimea. Russia was prepared for these economic sanctions and could effectively reduce the negative effects on its oil export, which could even increase after the western sanctions. North Korea is under UN sanctions since 2006 because of its nuclear program. The sanctions refer to oil and oil products as well, but has no significant effect on world oil market and oil price, because North Korea is a relatively small country with low oil consumption.
North Korea is suffering a huge economic burden due to severe restrictions and its only way to circumvent the embargo – according to American accusations – is to smuggle some oil from China and Russia.