The Pentagon is seen on Oct. 21, 2021.

The Pentagon is seen on Oct. 21, 2021. (Robert H. Reid/Stars and Stripes)

The Pentagon is facing congressional pressure to stop the flow of Russian oil into its supply chain after a Washington Post examination revealing that shipments of the forbidden fuel have been making their way to a refinery that serves the U.S. military.

Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), lawmakers prominent in the push to step up enforcement of oil sanctions, on Monday called on the Defense Department to explain the steps it is taking to root out Russian oil from its supply chain. They demanded answers to several written questions and a briefing from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“Russian entities are exploiting loopholes and workarounds, to not only bring gas and oil to market, but in some cases surreptitiously sell fuel to the DoD,” wrote the senators, citing reporting from The Post and the Project on Government Oversight.

The reporting tracked the shipment of banned petroleum products from Russian Black Sea ports to Motor Oil Hellas, the Pentagon’s supplier in Greece. The shipments were routed through a terminal in Turkey, which told The Post in an email it merely stores products and complies with all laws. The Greek refinery said in statements to The Post that the fuel came with customs paperwork identifying it as sanctions-compliant, but shipping and other data identify large amounts of it originating in Russia.

The Post could not determine the precise amount of Russian-origin fuel oil in the products the Pentagon purchases. Those products are refined using multiple ingredients that cannot all be tracked through production.

“The maze-like path of the oil from terminals in Russia to the U.S. fleet is almost certainly done intentionally by Russia to evade sanctions,” the senators wrote in their letter. “It is incumbent upon the DoD to take clear steps to ensure that it is not contributing to the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.”

The Defense Logistics Agency, which manages the purchase of U.S. military fuel, said in an earlier statement to The Post that it is the responsibility of contractors to ensure their products comply with sanctions. The agency cautioned that tracing the origins of ingredients that go into the jet fuel and Navy diesel it purchases from the Greek refinery could be impossible.

Western sanctions were designed to strike a severe economic blow against Russia, where oil and gas revenue make up almost half of the federal budget and help fund the war effort.

But the Russian economy has proved unexpectedly resilient, in no small part because of widespread sanctions evasion.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now