Rachel Maddow on Big Oil’s Influence over U.S. Policy in Russia

by Greg Pollowitz

Maddow has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post where she asks, “Will U.S. energy companies disrupt Obama’s Russia policy?”

Wait, we have a policy on Russia? If we do, she doesn’t explain it in her piece.

Anyway, her basic argument is that U.S. and international energy companies with huge investments in Russia will stand in the way of President Obama if he decides to sanction Russia’s energy industry. Her conclusion:

Now, in Russia, the world’s energy giants already have their capable hands all over Russia’s vast supplies of both oil and gas. As such, the energy industry’s acute economic interest is in a Russia that is not so at odds with the world that it can’t freely trade its oil and gas. What role will the industry play in achieving that end?

So far, the companies are acting as a counterweight against U.S. and European diplomatic pressure. Exxon’s new geophysical surveys of the eastern Arctic with Rosneft were announced three days after NATO said it was suspending “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia and three days before thinly disguised Russian forces started taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine. Why would Putin fear U.S. threats of economic isolation while the biggest U.S. oil company is jumping into his lap?

If Europe and the United States decide to pressure Russia with sanctions targeting the energy sector, which accounts for more than 50 percent of the Russian economy, will the big American and Western oil companies stand in the way? As Putin increasingly acts out his dreams of grandeur — his ridiculous Eurasian Union idea, his fantasies of restoring czarist “novorossiya” or the U.S.S.R. — he is testing the edges of his power. He wants to be seen as too big to fail. Big Oil siding with him could make those dreams come true.

Demanding that other countries choose to be “with us or against us” was one of the Bush administration’s many regrettable failures after Sept. 11. But if we asked the big Western oil companies the same question now, how would they answer?

A couple of things. One, the president has been necessarily vague on what future sanctions will look like, but is there any indication that he’d target Russia’s energy sector? I haven’t heard that threat. Maddow can blame “big oil” standing in the way of such yet-to-be-issued-or-discussed sanctions if she cares to, but in the end it’s President Obama who has to make that decision. If the president caves to Maddow’s “big oil,” her beef should be with Obama and not the energy companies.

And two, maybe she should think about apologizing to Mitt Romney for his 2012 remarks on Russia as America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe. Here’s what Maddow wrote back then:

For another, calling Russia the nation’s “number one geopolitical foe” has renewed a debate over whether Romney understands these issues as well as he thinks he does.

The Democratic National Committee, for example, distributed this statement from former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig:

“Governor Romney offered his judgment today that Russia is our nation’s number one geopolitical foe. This conclusion, as outdated as his ideas on the economy, energy needs, and social issues, is left over from the last century. Does Governor Romney believe that a Cold War foreign policy is the right course in the twenty-first century? Does he believe that Russia is a bigger threat to the U.S. today than terrorism, or cyberwarfare, or a nuclear-armed and erratic North Korea?

“Oddly, before calling Russia our number one foe, he issued a foreign policy white paper that only got around to Russia after sections on China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, and Latin America. His most recent statement is yet another revelation that Mitt Romney repeatedly speaks inconsistently and in ways that are disconnected from twenty-first century realities.”

The twenty-first-century reality is the one Romney described and the Left has yet to admit they were wrong.