On Friday, the U.S. Treasury took a firm stance on a delicate issue involving Russian sanctions. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that Exxon Mobil — previously headed by current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — will not be granted a waiver to bypass sanctions that bar American companies from working with Russia’s state-owned oil giant, Rosneft.
This decision is a significant one for several reasons, starting with the fact that Trump decided not to do away with some Obama-era sanctions. These particular sanctions differ, of course, from the ones that Obama imposed over election interference. Instead, they source to back in 2014 and concern Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Previously, however, Exxon did secure a waiver allowing them to “complete drilling of an exploration well in Russia’s Arctic waters.”
Here, Exxon wished to drill for oil in the Black Sea in conjunction with Rosneft. Yet with Congress and the FBI’s investigation into Russia-Trump ties picking up steam again next week, the White House probably didn’t feel presenting the appearance of impropriety. Mnuchin reported that Trump played a role in the Treasury Department’s decision:
“In consultation with President Donald J. Trump, the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to U.S. companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions.”
If Exxon would have received the waiver, this would have resulted in a venture that yielded billions of gallons of oil. Vladimir Putin must be furious over this, especially since he and Tillerson once enjoyed a laugh during a 2011 signing ceremony between Texas-based Exxon and Rosneft. Then again, Putin and Tillerson reportedly endured a tense atmosphere last week in Moscow, so perhap it’s time for Russian aircraft to go stalk the Alaskan coast again.