| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Oil’s new currency landscape: Russia’s struggle beyond the dollar

In the complex landscape of global oil trade, a significant shift is taking place, disrupting the longstanding supremacy of the U.S. dollar. Recent geopolitical tensions related to the Ukraine conflict have escalated this transition, resulting in a disagreement between Russia and India regarding oil payments.
The U.S. dollar has been the undisputed currency in international oil transactions for decades. However, as Western sanctions gripped Russia in response to the Ukraine conflict, Moscow began steering away from the dollar and euro. Currently, less than 10 per cent of Russia’s daily oil output is sold in these dominant currencies. The Russian central bank, restricted by sanctions, faces challenges in dollar operations, prompting a strategic shift in how Russia engages in global trade.
Amid this shift, India emerged as a pivotal player, becoming Russia’s largest buyer of seaborne oil. In a bold move, India insisted on paying for oil in rupees, disrupting established norms. However, this stance faced resistance, as the Russian central bank provided informal guidance against accepting the Indian currency. The resulting standoff almost derailed crucial trading activities, revealing the complexities that arise when traditional powers navigate new and assertive players.

Seeking alternatives amid sanctions

As Moscow faces limited access to the international banking system due to sanctions, Russian oil executives sought alternative currencies to facilitate transactions. The challenge lies in finding a viable substitute for the dollar, a quest that has implications not only for Russia and India but also for other key players such as buyers in Africa, China, and Turkey – all significant purchasers of Russian oil.

The Yuan factor and diplomatic sensitivities

Russian officials and oil executives, pressed by the limitations on the dollar, advocated for transactions in the Chinese yuan. While advantageous for Russia, this proposition faced resistance from India, given the sensitive nature of using the currency of a regional rival. The complexity deepened as Indian state refiners turned to the UAE dirham, introducing additional clearing requirements amidst Washington’s tightened stance on enforcing price caps.

The story takes a dramatic turn as at least two major Russian oil companies threatened to redirect tankers carrying millions of tonnes of oil away from India. This move underscored the severity of the clash and the challenges in finding swift solutions. With Washington imposing sanctions on owners of tankers carrying Russian oil, the situation escalates, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the future dynamics of global oil trade.


This exploration into the clash between Russia and India over oil payments unveils a narrative that goes beyond economic transactions. It reflects geopolitical shifts, the impact of sanctions, and the delicate dance between established and emerging players in the ever-evolving global trade landscape. As we witness the consequences of this clash reverberating across markets, one thing becomes clear – the tides of the global oil trade are shifting, and the implications are profound.

  • Wions