Put the Squeeze to Exxon
by Deacon Blues
In the eyes of many inside the beltway, Vladimir Putin is instigating through his own troops and friendly militias a splintering of eastern Ukraine into a new buffer state for "New" Russia. Many cold warriors have seen this coming from the day that Putin moved into Crimea, and the media now reports that he’s telling the Ukrainian leadership that to avoid a Russian invasion, they have to turn the eastern part of their country over to his local mobs and militias. Yet some of these same stories also say Russia is calling for a "national dialogue" within Ukraine to defuse tensions, which the cold warriors ascribe to a Putin misdirection attempt from a de facto Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine. Yet to test this request for one more opportunity to talk, shouldn't the White House use proxies to see if the request is genuine?
There are two sides to this story, and the West has done its share of posturing and missteps to contribute to where we are at now. Putin has achieved what he wanted, which is a surge of nationalism and a strengthened hand at home, something the West cannot now expect Putin to publicly water down. Yet despite the bluster from Moscow, it isn't clear that Putin would actually invade eastern Ukraine if the West called his bluff and immediately agreed to a regional dialogue where real agendas would be exposed. Nor is it certain that Putin would proceed if he knew behind the scenes that Obama was ready to squash all sorts of joint economic ventures, especially those between Big Oil and Rosneft.
Today, Exxon was forced to insist to nervous investors that their Russian oil deals were continuing unabated. President Obama has said all along that he will take an incremental approach in responding to escalating Russian moves. If the White House hasn't threatened Exxon and told them that their deals with Rosneft and the Russian government are at imminent risk because they enrich a rogue state, now would be the time. If Putin doesn't immediately agree to regional talks, then it's time to freeze Rosneft’s business dealings with Exxon here in the Gulf of Mexico and in Texas. Let Putin nationalize Exxon’s holdings and operations in Russia, and let the oil giant sort it out with the little man.
I'm sure John McCain and his GOP friends will be fully supportive of squeezing Big Oil to get tough with Putin, right?