Saudis Poke The Russian Bear, Start Oil War In Eastern Europe

Tyler Durden's picture

Any weakening of Russian support for Mr. Assad could be one of the first signs that the recent tumult in the oil market is having an impact on global statecraft. Saudi officials have said publicly that the price of oil reflects only global supply and demand, and they have insisted that Saudi Arabia will not let geopolitics drive its economic agenda. But they believe that there could be ancillary diplomatic benefits to the country’s current strategy of allowing oil prices to stay low — including a chance to negotiate an exit for Mr. Assad.

That’s a quote from a New York Times article that ran in February of this year. 

At the time, we pointed to the piece as evidence that yet another conspiracy “theory” has become conspiracy “fact” as it effectively served to validate (to the extent The New York Times is validation) the thesis that at the end of the day, this is all about energy. 

If the Saudis could use oil prices to force Moscow into ceding support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, then the West and its regional allies could get on with facilitating his ouster by way of arming and training rebels. Once Assad was gone, a puppet government could be installed (after some farce of an election that would invariably pit two Western-backed candidates against each other) then Riyadh, Doha, and Ankara could work with the new government in Damascus to craft energy deals that would not only be extremely lucrative for all involved, but would also help to break Gazprom’s iron grip on energy supplies to Europe. 

Those are the “ancillary diplomatic benefits” mentioned in The Times piece. 

Only it didn’t work out that way. 

Instead, Russia just kind of rolled with the economic punches (so to speak) and while there’s probably only so much pain Moscow can take between low oil prices and Western sanctions, Putin has apparently not yet reached the threshold. 

Meanwhile, the Saudis have found that it’s taking longer than expected for Riyadh to realize another expected benefit from driving crude prices into the floor. Bankrupting the relatively uneconomic US shale space would go a long way towards solidifying Saudi Arabia’s market share, but thanks to wide open capital markets, Riyadh has effectively gotten itself into a war with the Fed. The longer ZIRP persists, the longer otherwise insolvent US producers can stay in business. In short: until the cost of capital starts to rise, there will likely still be investors of some stripe willing to finance some of these drillers. 

Additionally, Riyadh decided to fight a proxy war with Iran in Yemen and combined with the necessity of maintaining the status quo in terms of the lifestyle of the everyday Saudi, the kingdom is literally going broke as the budget deficit is set to come in at an astounding 20% of GDP and the current account plunges into the red as well. 

As for the Russians, not only did they not abandon their support for Assad, they in fact struck up a closer alliance with Iran, whose oil supply threatens to add to the global deflationary supply glut once sanctions are fully lifted (by the way, Sunday is “Adoption Day” for the nuclear deal), on the way to restoring the Assad regime in an all-out military invasion. 

Adding insult to injury (or “energy” as it were), Russia briefly topped the Saudis as the top supplier of crude to China in May. 

In other words, the Saudi gambit has been a miserable failure thus far and although they may be able to outlast the US shale space, the battle is nearly lost in Syria. All of this helps to explain why now, Riyadh is looking to muscle in on Moscow’s crude market share in Eastern Europe. Here’s Bloomberg with more:

As President Vladimir Putin tries to restore Russia as a major player in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is starting to attack on Russia's traditional stomping ground by supplying lower-priced crude oil to Poland.


At a recent investment forum, Igor Sechin, chief executive of Rosneft, Russia's biggest oil company, complained about the Saudis' entry into the Polish market. "They're dumping actively," he said."


In the 1970s, Saudi Arabia sent half of its oil to Europe, but then the Soviet Union built export pipelines from its abundant West Siberian oil fields, and the Saudis switched to Asian markets, where demand was growing and better prices could be had. The Saudi share of the European crude market kept dropping; in 2009, it reached a nadir of 5.9 percent. Russia's share peaked at 34.8 percent in 2011. In recent years, Saudi Arabia slowly increased its presence, reaching a 8.6 percent share in 2013, but it had never tried its luck in Poland.


Like most of central and eastern Europe, Poland has long been a client of Russian oil companies. Last year, about three-quarters of its fuel imports came from Russia, with the rest from Kazakhstan and European countries. Poland, however, is at the center of efforts to reduce the European Union's dependence on Russian energy. 


A new and reliable supplier is a godsend. As for the Saudis, they need to expand outside Asia where demand is falling. 


This could turn into a more active shoving match between the world's two biggest oil exporters, which already are at odds over the Syrian conflict. 


If the Chinese economy continues performing worse than expected, that market may become too small for the Russians and the Saudis. 


Oil competition is a dangerous undercurrent in Putin's Middle Eastern policy. The Russian leader hopes that when its ally Iran re-enters the global oil and gas market, Russia will somehow share in the profits, perhaps through new pipelines across Syria. He also wants to stop the Saudis from establishing export routes in Syria. Now that Russian energy supremacy in Europe also is at stake, Putin's determination to resolve the Syrian conflict on his terms can only grow.

Note that the last bolded passage above reinforces everything we've been saying about the conflict in Syria from the beginning and even serves to underscore the suggestion that in addition to supplanting Washington as Mid-East superpower puppet master, Moscow has likely also struck some manner of deal with Tehran on future energy projects in Syria. Recall what we said late last month:

What Putin’s role ultimately would be in the Iran-Iraq-Syria line isn’t entirely clear but the project would compete with the Southern Gas Corridor, which is obviously good for Russia and it seems likely that in one way or another, Moscow, via its influence in Tehran and Damscus, would end up benefiting. Indeed, the fact that Assad signed an MOU for the Islamic Pipeline shortly after citing Gazprom's interests in rejecting the Qatar-Turkey line certainly seems to suggest that Russia had already negotiated for a piece of the pie.

More, from Reuters:

From global majors such as Shell and Total to more modest Polish energy firms, oil refiners in Europe are cutting their longstanding use of Russian crude in favor of Saudi grades as the world's top exporters fight for market share.


Russia has for years been muscling in on Asian markets where Saudi Arabia was once the unchallenged dominant supplier. But now Riyadh is retaliating in Moscow's backyard of Europe with aggressive price discounting.


This is likely to complicate further a dialogue between Moscow and the OPEC exporters' group on tackling the global oil glut, with joint production cuts already looking elusive.


Trading sources told Reuters that majors such as Exxon, Shell, Total and Eni have been all buying more Saudi oil for their refineries in Western Europe and the Mediterranean in the past few months at the expense of Russian oil.


"I'm buying less and less Russian crude for my refineries in Europe simply because Saudi barrels are looking more attractive. It is a no brainer for me as Saudi crude is just cheaper," said a trading source with one major, who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media.


Two trading sources said Saudi Arabia was looking at storing crude in Gdansk so that it can supply eastern European customers more quickly, just as it has done for years for western European clients from ports in the Netherlands or Belgium.


One trader said supplies from Gdansk could be sent to Germany to compete with Russian crude sent down the Soviet-built Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline.


The competition is likely to intensify in the next few months as Iran, which supplied between five and 10 percent of Europe's crude before 2012, is set to return with large volumes if and when Western sanctions on Tehran are lifted.


"The Saudis want to secure the market share before Iran comes back," said a trading source with an oil major.

And here’s Sputnik with the Russian point of view:

Saudi Arabia has started delivering oil to the Polish market at a discount in an attempt to boost its market share, Rosneft boss Igor Sechin told a forum in Moscow on Tuesday.


"Returning to the competition, I want to say what we are seeing at the moment. Saudi Arabia has for the first time entered even the Polish market, delivering oil to Gdansk. They are actively dumping [the price]."


"The battle for the market is one of the factors that affect the price of oil," said Sechin, who promised to "make every effort to prevent a decrease in our share of supplies."


Speaking at the 'Russia Calling!' annual investment forum, Sechin explained that Rosneft is able compete with competitors in terms of production prices, which average at around $4 a barrel, in part thanks to the weak ruble.


According to reports, Saudi Aramco began the deliveries on September 21, in order to gain access to a new market in Europe before Iran returns to the market in the wake of sanctions being lifted from its oil exports. Last month Saudi Aramco cut all prices for October deliveries to Northwest Europe and the US, and reduced the premium on its main Light grade to Asia by 30 cents per barrel.

As you can see, all of this is inextricably connected. The above represents the intersection of i) energy, ii) geopolitics, iii) the global economic slowdown as exemplified by China's hard landing, and iv) monetary policy. 

Now that Russia and Iran have cemented their alliance and look set to control the future of Syrian politics, the Saudis are rushing to establish a foothold in traditionally Russian-dominated markets. Both Moscow and Riyadh will suffer if Chinese demand doesn't rebound swiftly or worse, continues to decline. Meanwhile, as long as the cost of capital is zero, at least some uneconomic US supply will likely remain online, pressuring prices further and perpetuating the entire dynamic. 

The question now, is how long it will be before Riyadh gets desperate enough to attempt to turn the tide in Syria in favor of the Sunni extremist groups battling Moscow and Tehran.

Should the Saudi-UAE-Qatar coalition fighting Iran's proxy army in Yemen decide to get involved in Syria in a last ditch effort to protect their energy interests and counter what will likely morph from a Russia-Iran military nexus into a Russia-Iran energy nexus once the war is over and sanctions on Tehran lifted, then the fireworks will begin in earnest.

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JustObserving's picture

Saudi Arabia is as evil as they come.  After supporting and funding assorted terrorists for decades, they have gotten away scot-free for all their illegal activities including their invasion of Yemen.

It's time for retribution for all the criminal activities of the cruel, corrupt cabal that rules Saudi Arabia. Poking the Russian bear will ensure this retribution 

Putin knows that Saudi Arabia lowering the price of oil to $10 a barrel in the mid-1980s played a crucial role in the breakup of the USSR. And Bandar threatened Russia with terrorist attacks.

Karma is a bitch.

‘Prince Bandar threatens Putin with Chechen terror attacks’

Latina Lover's picture

"Should the Saudi-UAE-Qatar coalition fighting Iran's proxy army in Yemen decide to get involved in Syria in a last ditch effort to protect their energy interests and counter what will likely morph from a Russia-Iran military nexus into a Russia-Iran energy nexus once the war is over and sanctions on Tehran lifted, then the fireworks will begin in earnest."

Now that Putin has put paid to the Quatari/Saudi gas pipeline, Europe will remain a captive market for Russian Gas.  Eventually a pipeline from Iran will likely be built, but this is many years off.   In the meantime, if Iran can knock Saudi Arabia out of Europe, then the Saudi boy buggerers would really be in trouble.   As for the US shale oil and gas industry,  they will meet the fate of  the  Dodo, 5 trillion in bonds going extinct.

Ignatius's picture

A couple of points:  1) Everything is a negotiation, 2) It needs to be kept in mind (and it's mentioned) that it's not just about supply, but markets, and 3) Israel's interest and role in these conflicts should not be buried only in a discussion about energy, as their interest in the geo-politics of the ME and the balkanization of their neighbors/enemies is of paramount importance to them in the same way that the US has constantly destabilized and controlled Mexico and other Central and South American countries.

Latina Lover's picture

Well said. As an example,  I'll bet Putin already cut a deal with Netanyahoo to help Israel build a nat gas pipeline to Turkey.  

roccman's picture

The world was divided up a very long time ago.

Pdk wrote a book the high man in the castle

The Japanese and Nazis win ww2.

America has been collateralized. China will get its due.

Israel will get the abrahamic inheritance.

And then the fun begins.

YouSerious's picture

russia is a bankrupt mob of gangsta's, if anyone is doing desperate moves here its them.

Time is on america's side. You will get taught a few things in power dynamics soon by both USA and China

jeff montanye's picture

if i had to guess, putin has greater loyalty in the russians than king salman, coming up on his one year coronation anniversary next january, does in the saudis.  i mean the saudi women would like drivers' licenses to go with their cell phones, omg.

chunga's picture

Just deserts for the creepy sAudi turds would be Putin semi-clandestine financing/creating a group of "freedom fighters" to raise hell in their little fiefdom like USSA did with ISIS.

They wouldn't even have to be terrists necessarily. Maybe just women demanding rights like permission to vote, drive, marry who they want, etc. Then Murika would have to take the preposterous stance that this is bad and must be stopped because freedom.

slammin_dude's picture

And Hitlery, Bernie along with CNN, huffpo etc would all somehow say it is good and all the idiot libtards would believe it and go along with it....

smacker's picture

"Bandar threatened Russia with terrorist attacks"

He did indeed. I was surprised that he got home in one piece after that. Another example of Putin's measured response to provocations.

Max Steel's picture

Russians are not savages. Even the Pulonium Tea fiasco in London was blamed on Russia without evidences. That's how western presstitutes spin things.

11b40's picture

Don't get mad - get even.

BarnacleBill's picture

Russia's smartest move might be to shepherd the ISIS armies down towards the Saudi border. ISIS armies on Saudi territory would give the latter something to worry about.

HenryHall's picture

The ISIS armies in Syria cannot move into Saudi, that route is blocked. They are moving into Turkey. And via Turkey into West Afghanistan with help from the Americans.

Okienomics's picture

They'll just keep moving north with the "refugees" piling into Europe.  

Q: How do tell a "legitimate" Syrian refugee from a fleeing ISIL terrorist?


Omen IV's picture

This is the way to turn Prince Bandar and his Chechen strategy 10 years ago in Russia on its head and pay back - SA is a huge prize for the Sunni everywhere.


the Princes are not loved they are tolerated

humanstakeaction's picture

Just another baseless speculation: Iran and the U.S. agreeing on something for the first time in nealry 40 years (??), combined with aggressive Iranian actions in the peninsula. One wonders if the little battle in Syria is just a way of speeding up the inevitable fall of the House of Saud. The little spat between Russia and the U.S might just be for show, with the grand prize being a nice little kingdom....the last straw in the middle east house of cards. Global escalation seemingly everywhere (South China Sea, mid-east, EU and US borders) and convergent 0% monetary policy results in new international governance (currency+legal framworks) "to keep the peace" before anything serious happens. 

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Bottom line?...

Saudi Arabia is out of both time and oil going on 10 years now, and more importantly peddling what they have left of it with a currency nobody in there right minds will want to own in 2016!

Best of all their "armor" the U.S. MIC ain't gonna be their to finish the job in Syria or Iraq for them that's a given!

Son of Captain Nemo's picture


And when you're willing to sacrifice everything the way the unholy alliance has been doing things since "9/11" you know for certain that they will eliminate themselves in this process.

The medical definition of being unable to distinguish fantasy from reality comes to mind... I think our leaders and the American sheep have firmly arrived at that destination!

Lea's picture

So let me get this right: to crush the Russian oil market in Poland, Saudi Arabia is running its own economy to the ground?

Sounds like they are no Einsteins, doesn't it?

Omen IV's picture

Desperate people do desperate things


The Princes have no game - they know the US is not a partner its a parasite - different for Iran - Russia - China -Iraq - they have synergy long term - mutual aid society

Freddie's picture

There is loads of bad karma coming down on the House of Saud.

1. Oil fields like Ghawar are old and possibly dying.

2. They spend way too much money. Handouts to the masses, weapons, princes Ferraris and the list goes on. They are going broke.

3. Getting beaten up badly in Yemen.

4. No one likes them. Iran is getting stronger while Saudis gets weaker.  USA may abandon them.

5. Dr. Jim Willie says their gold is being stolen in London by the UK and USA.

6. Putin does not like them.  Iran and Syria hate them.

I think the Saudis are buring the candle at both ends. A half decent army or rag tag mercenaries could roll over SA.

Torn Frequency's picture

They can afford running their economy into the ground so to speak, because its all ficticious. Not only did they delivered a crushing blow to the Russian economy, they also killed a lot of businesses in the US. Their buying up all the oil companies that went bankcrupt. They got more then enough money in the bank to survive through the hardships, their also cleaning house now because they want to get rid of their current king, and a few more that are... a bit too perverted and put a bad name on their bloodlines. The house of saud is far from over, they got royalty over the world kissing their ring. Albeit i find the lack of human rights repulsive, i must admit they have it made. Alas they made the big mistake of threatening Russia, at the same time their buying weapons from them, and using a lot of them in Yemen.. i guess the US and Russian military industrial complex is going to have a fun time this decade with all the mayhem and war breaking out.. good profits for them.  Now what i still don't get is why the UN, and many other people in the west don't kick out their leadership for starting illegal wars all over the place. Apethy at that level kills civilizations. 

Farqued Up's picture

Lea....Sounds exactly like Einstein, flunked algebra, a flunky patent clerk, had a brilliant idea, required his Serbian wife to do the mathematics for his dumbass, became the darling of the controlling tribes, dumped his superior wife, married his first cousin, ran back to the womb, academia, a profession that had repeatedly rejected him.

Yeah, the Saudis sound exactly as if they are first Semitic cousins to the Einsteins, inbreeding and all.

Hide and watch, his whole batch of theories will be defrocked one day and will be formed to fit with the use of empirical constants, anyway. Humans know jack shit about physics, still wrestling with a decadent base number system of fingers and toes, and invent shit to explain the square root of a minus one and Pi, I.e., IMAGINARY and INFINITY. Newton and Tesla were the smartest of all. Not even close.

Then to continue the worship, they dissected his brain to discover what was different about his genius, and didn't find a damned thing different from your basic retarded first grader.

Since I'm on a roll, pissed at losing my football bets yesterday, I may as well piss on some other sacred cows. There was never any Big Bang, NOTHING does not exist, Black Holes exist but are whirlpools connecting either/and/or other dimensions or universes. Infinitesimally small Singularities are another figment of welfare for idle PhDs. Get a grasp on " infinitesimally small" with humongous gravity. And that is supposed to be a black hole. Fuck me running.

I need another beer. Bye. Oh, Edison was a megalomaniacal idiot, a psychotic quintessential thief and user. Fuck him.

Uh, did I miss anybody?

Lanka's picture

You missed NASA, the authority on false science.

Kina's picture

I guess Russia/Iran/Iraq could simply follow the American template of the past 50 years. Fund groups of ISIS rebels to bring chaos to Saudis homeland.  All they need is white sneekers and black flag and bingo!

In fact Im sure there will be an increase in terrorists act in Saudi Arabia, too obvious.


Maybe one day those gross gruesome Saudi public beheadings may actually be bunches of Saudi princes

Son of Captain Nemo's picture


The good news on that front is that they won't have to import any terrorists from outside to do the job inside the Country.

Plenty of NGDRs inside Riyadh already chafing at the bit to pop a cap in the head(s) of the anointed ones creating all of this mayhem in the neighborhood.

If it comes to that Putin and Soleimaniwill be smart enough to just sit back and watch the civil war and internal conditions erode the biggest catalyst being the "petrodollar", that will set off the crisis at home for the "Royal ones"!


Latina Lover's picture

Don't be surprised if the Houthis kick Saudi Ass in their  backyard, with a little help from a few friends.

flapdoodle's picture

I think this is the key. By turning Yemen into a festering sore for the House of Saudstein, the Domeh perfumed princes will be less able to afford their evil plans elsewhere.

The Russians and Iranis have a logistical problem getting to Yemen, but the coastline is *so* long they should be able to get some pretty decent weapons in. Just a few good hits will shock the hell out of the Saudis who assume that their super expensive US weaponery will magically provide them with an easy victory. (Everything the Saudis buy seems to be super expensive - I remember reading years ago that LAMBORGHINI made some of their command and control vehicles !).

At some point, SA will need to start borrowing significant funds to support their mercenaries in Syria, bomb marriage processions in Yemen, and keep their significant Shia minorities at home pacified, not to mention fund the extravegence of the huge numbers of the Saudi Royal family.

Even in a crisis, a worldwide recession will keep the price of oil comparitively low. The days of $100 a barrell oil are not likely to reappear unless there is hyperinflation, and I suspect the profligate Saudis got way too used to making such a killing on their only real asset. Tightening the belt can be a real bitch for the super rich.

Freddie's picture

I think the Saudis oil fields are dying too.  Ghawar is their main oil field and possibly the largest in history.  It has been pumped out for 60+ years.  I think that pipeline was needed for their survival.

Max Steel's picture

they are kickind saudi's ass already. 

css1971's picture

The Saudi royals are far from united.

Exalt's picture

Swords, don't forget the swords. You're not a terrorist until you can cut someone's head off.

Allen_H's picture

I thought the Saudis were poking Obummer in the 19hole, he always gets a hole in one.

Consuelo's picture



You know, the only problem I have with this one is that 'ole Grampa Munster (Al Lewis) really was a good fellow...   His likeness should not be tarnished with the likes of McShitstain...





Billy the Poet's picture

Al Lewis worked very hard at promoting communism and was proud of it.

dogismycopilot's picture

please set up a t-shirt website so we can buy these works of art.


sheer genius.

cornflakesdisease's picture

Hey, I love grandpa munster.  Couldn't you have used Wilfred Brimley or so other old fart from a hemmoroid commercial?

Torn Frequency's picture

Old Neocon vampire McCain, thank you. I needed a good laugh. 

Joe A's picture

The two downvoters here are McCain himself and his alter ego -that is the same as him- Mr. McHide.

FedFunnyMoney's picture

As Gerald Celente says, "Trade wars, currency wars, world war".

Chupacabra-322's picture

"When all else fails, they take you to War."
-Gerald Celente

Kina's picture

Quisling, Manchurian Candidate, Obama - brothers in arms

justdues's picture

You obviously know nothing about Quisling the patriot , keep drinking the Koolaid of the "victors" narrative

fleur de lis's picture

Quisling was indeed a patriot. He knew well that treachery surrounded him on all sides and would cut him down. He left a book to counter the viscous lies that sullied his good name.

LoneStarHog's picture

The longer ZIRP persists, the longer otherwise insolvent US producers can stay in business. In short: until the cost of capital starts to rise, there will likely still be investors of some stripe willing to finance some of these drillers.

There are hundreds of billions in bonds and over a trillion in derivatives written for the shale oil business when oil was $80-plus...Those are now blowing up taking the banks with them, all while the criminal Federal Reserve attempts to mitigate the circumstances.

El Vaquero's picture

Not to mention that interest rates (yields) in that particular sector of the junk bond market have risen all by themselves.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

"the criminal Federal Reserve attempts to mitigate the circumstances." being the operative words!

What I wouldn't have given to read Janet's mind right before she had that "brain fart" moment that looked like a mini-stroke on the podium last month broadcasting the health of the U.S. economy moving into the next quarter?!!!