As we discussed yesterday, an intelligence report assembled by a former MI6 operative in Moscow concerning Trump’s extensive ties to the government of Vladimir Putin went public thanks to Buzzfeed and CNN. These documents, which you really should read in their entirety, paint a troubling portrait of our President-elect. According to the as-yet-verified claims made in the 40-some pages of intelligence memos that comprise the dossier, Trump had been developed as a Russian asset over the past several years through an intricate campaign involving both blackmail and financial incentives. While there’s some question as to the accuracy of the claims, we’re told that the former British intelligence officer who prepared the materials, Christopher Steele, is well-respected in the intelligence community. Not only that, but the the BBC has come out to say that a second source has confirmed the claims… Well, with all of that by way of background, I’d like to spend some time right now delving into one specific claim made at the end of the report involving Russia’s desire to see Trump installed as President in order to open up oil exploration in the Arctic.
As you may recall, I suggested some time ago that I thought that Putin was interested in seeing Trump become President not just because he would allow Russia to do what it wanted in the Baltic states, but because, as President, Trump could help lift sanctions against Russia, thereby allowing their $500 billion oil exploration deal with Exxon to move forward in the Arctic. Well, if you read to the very end of the intelligence document noted above, you will find the following mention of these sanctions and a financial offer that was apparently made to Trump on behalf of the largely state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft.
Yes, you read that right. Trump emissary Carter Page, according to this intelligence dossier, met with representatives of Rosneft to discuss the lifting of sanctions against Russia which had stopped their plans to drill in the Arctic. In return for lifting these sanctions, according to the report, Trump would be given a 19 percent stake in Rosneft… Can someone please calculate 19 percent of $500 billion?
Here, by way of context, is a clip from something I’d written recently on the role of oil in all of this…
FROM THE POST “OF COURSE IT’S ALL ABOUT OIL”:
…To put it simply, Russia, despite the bluster, has been failing under Putin. Here, from The Diplomat, is a clip a 2014 article titled “Russia is Doomed.” This section relates specifically to the country’s energy reserves – one of four “pillars of Russian power” the authors describe as “steadily declining.”
…Another source of modern Russian power has been its massive energy reserves. Indeed, high oil prices during the 1970s allowed the Soviet Union to flex its muscles abroad. However, as energy prices stabilized during the 1980s the artifice upon which the Soviet system began to crumble. Far from continuing to expand, the end of the decade saw the Soviet empire disintegrate, with Moscow powerless to stop it.
The so-called resurgence Russia has enjoyed since Putin first assumed power has also been built on high energy prices. And like the Soviet leaders before him, Putin has squandered the temporary respite provided by high energy prices instead of using it to reinvest in the country and its people. As the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development noted gloomily in December 2012, “Not only are Russian exports highly concentrated in natural resources, this concentration has increased over time: the shares of oil, gas and other minerals in Russia’s exports are higher today than they were 15 years ago.”
It went on to reflect: “In 2012 Russia remains highly dependent on its natural resources. Oil and gas now account for nearly 70 percent of total goods exports…. Oil and gas revenues also contribute around half of the federal budget. The non-oil fiscal deficit has averaged more than 11 per cent of GDP since 2009, while the oil price consistent with a balanced budget is now in the region of US$115 per barrel and rising.”
The problem with the Russian Federation’s economic model, much like that of the Soviet Union’s before it, is that it is only sustainable so long as energy prices remain artificially high. But, of course, energy prices are almost certainly going to decline over the coming years as a result of greater energy efficiency in the West, slowing growth in the East, and greater supply as a result of the energy revolutions being enjoyed in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere around the world. And as goes the price of oil so goes the Russian state…
Be sure to go back and read that last paragraph, in case you missed it… The Russian economic model is only sustainable “so long as energy prices remain artificially high.” And, more importantly, “energy prices are almost certainly going to decline over the coming years as a result of greater energy efficiency in the West.” So, as the world migrates to renewables, the Russian state, having not diversified, is going to suffer… Unless, of course, the West stops the migration to renewables.
In March 2014, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham summed it up rather well. Russia, he said, is merely “an oil and gas company masquerading as a country.” Some took offense at the comment. From what I’ve seen, though, most saw quite a bit of truth in it. The Carnegie organization, for instance, after saying that Graham’s assertion came across as absurd at first blush, essentially acquiesced, detailing in a 2014 report just how “ heavily dependent on oil” Russia’s economy was.
So, as solar and wind are beginning to outperform fossil fuels, we have this former super-power that has essentially put all of its eggs in the “oil and gas” basket, refusing to either invest in renewables, or, for that matter, diversify their economy in any way. Instead, they continue, as Sarah Palin would say, to “drill, baby, drill,” ignoring the reality of global climate change and the fact that wind and solar are growing more competitive by the day.
OK, so here’s where things get interesting… Once Trump was elected (thanks, in large part, to Russia’s help), he promptly named Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a close collaborator with the Russians, to be his Secretary of State… Here, from CNN, is a clip about Tillerson’s deep economic ties to Russia.
…In 2013, Vladimir Putin awarded ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens…
The 64-year-old Tillerson, a lifetime Exxon employee, came up through the ranks by managing the company’s Russia account…
In fact, his close relationship with Russia is one of the major reasons Tillerson was selected to succeed Lee Raymond as CEO of Exxon (XOM) in 2006, according to Steve Coll’s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”
Once he became CEO, Exxon bet billions on Russia’s vast but notoriously-elusive oil resources through a bold partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal with Rosneft, which is majority owned by Moscow.
Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat.
“Trump continues to amaze,” Alexey Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, said on Twitter. He said that selecting Tillerson would be a “sensation” and noted he has “a lot of experience working with Russia”…
Here are Tillerson and Putin together, sharing a laugh. Judging by how happy they look, I’d say it was taken either since Trump won, or prior to 2014, when sanctions levied by the Obama administration killed a $500 billion dollar oil joint exploration venture in the Arctic between Russia and Exxon.
And that’s what I think all of this is really about, when you strip everything else away. This is about not just killing NATO, and allowing Russia to re-exert its dominance in Europe, but ensuring that oil remain our global currency.
Obama, to put it simply, was bad for big oil. And that’s a big reason why Trump is now our President-elect.
Obama killed a $500 billion dollar oil project in the Artic, so Putin invested in a candidate who would not only give him what he wanted in the Arctic, but also effectively stop research into alternative energy, global climate change, etc. [Relevant recent headlines: “Trump just proposed ending all federal clean energy development,” “Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings“] It’s difficult to imagine that Putin could have dreamed of a better scenario. Not only will Exxon be running the State Department, but the United States – the world’s largest market – will remain on the oil teat for the foreseeable future.
And now, if this intelligence dossier is to be believed, we know just what it cost the Russian’s to get Trump to dismiss global warming, shut down climate research and open up the Arctic. Again, I think we have a good case for treason. Let’s hope our elected officials pursue it. The future of planet is at stake.