Just as the "puppet of Putin" narrative had gone quiet - following Trump's Tomahawk-ing a largely abandoned airfield in Syria - it appears the Russia-linkages stories are about to get restarted. WSJ reports that Exxon Mobil has applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Russia in a bid to resume its joint venture with state oil giant PAO Rosneft.
A military move clearly against Putin's interests and a tense press conference seemed to 'shush' the constant Russophobic propaganda from America's left, but just day safter Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon Rex Tillerson left Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reports, Exxon has been seeking U.S. permission to drill with Rosneft in several areas banned by sanctions and applied in recent months for a waiver to proceed in the Black Sea, according to these people.
“Exxon is worried it could get boxed out of the Black Sea by the Italians,” said a person briefed on the company’s waiver application. Eni has been aggressively exploring the region in cooperation with Russia in recent years.
Exxon is seeking a waiver akin to those that have been granted by the EU to its rivals, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Tillerson is recusing himself from any matters involving Exxon for two years, and won’t be involved with any decision made by any government agency involving Exxon during this period, a State Department spokesman said.
It isn’t clear whether the request with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control was made before Mr. Tillerson joined the Trump administration. A spokesman for the Treasury Department said it doesn’t comment on waiver applications. An Exxon spokesman said the company wouldn’t discuss government deliberations on sanctions.
The sanctions target operations with Rosneft involving the transfer of technology, banning U.S. companies from deals in the Arctic, Siberia and the Black Sea, areas that would require the sharing of cutting-edge drilling techniques. The sanctions, instituted after the Kremlin’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014, also bar dealings with Rosneft’s chief executive, Igor Sechin, saying he “has shown utter loyalty to Vladimir Putin—a key component to his current standing.”
Notably these requests are not unprecedented at all. American companies often seek waivers from sanctions, citing humanitarian, trade or operational issues, according to former U.S. officials. Companies operating in countries that are heavily sanctioned may seek waivers to conduct specific banking transactions or equipment purchases, for example.
The proposal to drill in the Black Sea has been circulated in various federal departments in recent months, several people said. Exxon is arguing that it deserves a waiver there because its exploration rights in the Black Sea will expire if it doesn’t act by this year, under its deal with Rosneft, and because some of its top foreign competitors aren’t similarly restricted.
The Obama administration granted sanctions waivers to high-tech companies operating in both Iran and Syria, arguing that facilitating the flow of information could help open up the repressive regimes in Damascus and Tehran.
We look forward to hearing from Schumer, Pelosi, and Waters - who we are sure will have plenty to say.