Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tillerson To Visit Mother Russia

The Russian Federation has been described as a gas station masquerading as a nation. Oil and gas reserves give the Kremlin most of its clout in the world, despite sagging oil prices on the world market. Before he was Secretary of State, plutocrat and Russophile Rex "Rexxon" Tillerson was the head of Exxon Mobil, and he was up to his double chin in negotiations with Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft for a potential $500 billion deal to drill in the Russian Arctic's Kara Sea. Then, in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine's Crimea province, and the U.S. organized economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, which blocked Exxon from further exploration in the Kara Sea. Exxon is estimated to have lost $1 billion as a result of the sanctions.

Fast forward to 2017. Tillerson is now Secretary of State, presiding over a key Department that's facing deep cuts in its budget, and having few senior positions filled to allow it to operate effectively. The sanctions against Russia remain imposed, and the campaign of Putin puppet Donald "Rump" Trump is under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia. Last Monday's hearings with FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers brought a feeling of urgency for Rump's agenda, to move it forward before the investigations into his dealings with Russia threaten to spin out of control. Part of that agenda appears to be reassuring the Kremlin that Rump will remain a friend to their petrostate, despite the investigations and growing suspicion, and that he will work on lifting those sanctions. Tillerson is the man to deliver that message, as he undoubtedly will when he visits Moscow next month, after blowing off a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels to discuss alliance business. Although his job title reads "Secretary of State," you can be assured after 41 years at Exxon, he sees the world (and Russia) through oil goggles.

Rump's personal entanglement with Russian oligarchs and bankers remains shrouded, at least as long as his tax returns remain undisclosed. In 2008, his son bragged that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” Are the entanglements significant loans from Russian oligarchs to prop up his business? Are they his investments in oil companies that expect to do major business with Rosneft after a lifting of the sanctions? A combination of that, and more? The FBI investigation may turn over some unanticipated rocks hiding some fatal facts for Rump, so time is of the essence for him, Tillerson and their Russian co-conspirators to get Russian deals done while they still can.

No comments: