It is always dodgy with the Russians, right?
Russian petroleum giant Rosneft just announced that they sold their interests and stakes in Venezuela. They want to dodge U.S. sanctions. Who did they sell to? They ain’t saying.
What they did say is that they sold to an entity that is owned by Mother Russia, but they would not identify it by name. Now, you might guess that it would be Rosneftegaz, but there are other possibilities. From Reuters:
Rosneft would not disclose the name of the company to which it had sold its Venezuelan operations. A spokesman for the Russian government confirmed it had purchased Rosneft’s operations in Venezuela, but declined to say what company was involved in the deal.
Over at American Thinker, Monica Showalter observed:
Given that Rosneft and the Russian government are effectively the same beast, it seems likely that it was a move to skirt sanctions. The state-linked company said as much, declaring it a move to “defend” the interests of its investors.
If true, the idea would be to fob the losses from sanctions — and the collapse in Venezuelan oil production itself — and the low global price of oil at $25 a barrel — and Venezuela’s really low $10 price per barrel of its particular crude — onto the Russian government, socializing the losses, while keeping any profits private.
Private, of course, means Russian cronies, such as Putin ally (albeit a cranky one) Igor Sechin, and all his pals and investors eager to get out from under the tough boot of U.S. sanctions.
The most interesting thing to me was in the Reuters report, where they give a concrete indication that Rosneft really thinks they are going to fool the Trump Administration.
Rosneft Trading and TNK [subsidiarities of Rosneft that are based in Switzerland] took more than a third of Venezuela’s oil exports in 2019, allowing PDVSA to continue crude shipments even after U.S. sanctions imposed on the company left many traditional customers unwilling to work with it.
But neither company has lifted Venezuelan crude so far in March, and three tankers chartered by Rosneft to transport some 5.7 million barrels left Caribbean waters empty on Saturday after waiting off the Venezuelan coast for weeks.
It was not immediately clear if the apparent pullback would lead to a lifting of sanctions on Rosneft Trading and TNK. The Treasury Department has said it will “consider lifting sanctions for those who take concrete, meaningful, and verifiable actions to support democratic order in Venezuela.”
“Now it is our right to expect the fulfillment of the promises that were made publicly by American regulators,” a Rosneft representative said.
Maduro undoubtedly was really disappointed to have tankers sail away empty. U.S. sanctions are beginning to really bite.
Those tankers were beautiful. They were huuge.
It may or may not suit Team Trump to play along with Rosneft for now. The immediate point is to tighten the screws on Maduro.
If Trump loses in November, you can expect the Democrats to bail Maduro out and adopt his policies as much as they can for the U.S.A.