The United States imposed sanctions on Russia back in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea. But it appears oil giant ExxonMobil would like an exception for their own profit. They’re seeking a sanctions waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department to pursue drilling in the Black Sea with Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
It seems U.S. sanctions are just too inconvenient for ExxonMobil. Apparently they sent in their waiver application when Barack Obama was president, and did not drop it once Donald Trump entered office. The application didn’t come up during Senate hearings for former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson before he was confirmed as Secretary of State. Tillerson and other ExxonMobil officials then said they hadn’t lobbied against the sanctions on Russia.
Tillerson and the officials said ExxonMobil did receive a waiver to finish drilling an exploration well in Arctic waters near Russia. ExxonMobil officials also said they’d exhorted members of the Obama administration to align U.S. sanctions with European sanctions which allowed some flexibility for European companies to continue working on Russian projects.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on ExxonMobil’s sanctions waiver request yesterday, and The New York Times confirmed the story with an oil industry official. An ExxonMobil spokesperson refused to comment to The New York Times on the waiver application. The application will go before the Trump administration at a tenuous time, as an inquiry into Russia’s potential influence on the American presidential election continues.
At a 2014 Exxon annual meeting, Tillerson as CEO said, “We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively, and that’s a very hard thing to do.” But as Secretary of State he has not suggested sanctions be lifted.
Rosneft and Exxon made a deal back in 2011 to invest $3.2 billion to explore the Black Sea and the Arctic Ocean, with the pledge to share in the findings if oil were discovered.
Obama’s U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said on Twitter, “If the Trump administration approves this waiver, then all that tough talk last week about Russia was just that – talk.”