U.S. Tells India There Will Be 'Consequences' for Dodging Russia Sanctions

Daleep Singh, the U.S. deputy national security adviser, warned India on Thursday, ahead of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting in the Asian country, that there will be "consequences" if India tries to evade Western sanctions on Moscow imposed over the Ukraine war.

Lavrov arrived in India on Thursday evening after concluding a two-day visit to China.

India, one of Russia's main Cold War partners, is working with Moscow on a payment solution to work around Western sanctions. Refiners in India have been purchasing Russian oil through spot tenders since the war began on February 24, taking advantage of cheap discounts while other buyers pull out.

India has purchased at least 13 million barrels of Russian oil since February 24, according to Reuters, compared with nearly 16 million barrels for all of 2021. The Asian country is the world's third biggest oil importer, importing 80 percent of its oil needs. The newswire reported on February 25 that India was exploring setting up rupee trade accounts with Russia to be able to continue trading with the country and avert Western sanctions.

Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Russia is offering India huge discounts to directly purchase oil at pre-war prices. Moscow is willing to sell oil up to $35 per barrel—which could increase to $45 per barrel as fossil fuel prices continue to skyrocket—and wants India to buy 15 million barrels in the first deal.

Singh, seen as one of the key architects behind the U.S. sanctions on Russia, met with Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi on Thursday, where they discussed economic co-operation and strategic partnership, according to a tweet by Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India's ministry of external affairs.

Jaishankar also met with British foreign secretary Liz Truss later that day.

In a session with journalists after the meeting, Singh warned against India continuing to import products from Russia since President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24.

"What we would not like to see is a rapid acceleration of India's imports from Russia as it relates to energy or any other any other exports that are currently being prohibited by the U.S. or by other aspects of the international sanctions regime," Singh said, answering a question about India's decision to take up Russia's offer of discounted crude oil.

"I come here in a spirit of friendship to explain the mechanisms of our sanctions, the importance of joining us to express shared resolve and to advance shared interests. And yes, there are consequences to countries that actively attempt to circumvent or backfill these sanctions," he said, also noting that India and Russia are looking to get around the sanctions using their own payment system.

"We are very keen for all countries, especially our allies and partners, not to create mechanisms that prop up the ruble and that attempt to undermine the dollar-based financial system," he said.

Singh declined to go into specifics about the consequences.

The official also answered a question about President Joe Biden's comments on March 22 that India's position in the Quad—the strategic security dialogue between the U.S., Australia, India and Japan—was "somewhat shaky" on the Ukraine crisis.

Singh said there is a shared recognition in the Quad that "China is a strategic threat to a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific."

"If you set that against the reality that China and Russia have now declared a no limits partnership, and that Russia has said that China is its most important strategic partner, by extension, that has real implications for India," Singh said.

"No one should kid themselves—Russia is going to be the junior partner in this relationship with China. And the more leverage that China gains over Russia, the less favorable that is for India. I don't think anyone would believe that if China once again breached the Line of [Actual] Control, that Russia would come running to India's defense."

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

Daleep Singh
Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh takes questions during the daily press briefing at the White House on February 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. Singh threatened India on Wednesday ahead of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting in the country, saying there will be “consequences” if India tries to evade Western sanctions on Moscow. Getty/Drew Angerer