On November 25 the New York Times reported that "Russian leaders would like to improve ties with the United States under the administration of President-elect Obama." Mr. Putin was quoted "We hope the new leadership of the United States will be more constructive...."
Then, the very next day Russia's energy minister Sergei Shmatko would pronounce "Russia will coordinate with OPEC to defend its interests." This coming after Russia's extensive discussions in Tehran late in October with Iran and Qatar aimed at forming an OPEC-style cartel for natural gas.
One can surmise that all this is happening on Russia's presumption that the new American administration will continue business as usual inured to oil patch politics and policy as has the current administration, in effect turning a blind eye to OPEC's machinations. A policy that has been a boon to oil producers both here and abroad no matter the cost to the American consumer and the world economy.
It has been a policy of purposeful neglect permitting a major oil producer such as Russia to presume that they could freely conspire with the OPEC cartel in the firm belief that it would continue to be viewed as a responsible interlocutor with our government, all the while it instituted policies inimical to our anti-trust laws, and in effect plotted to initiate economic aggression against us and the world's economy. Actions that are patently outside the purview and spirit of recognized international trade law.
It is a breach that would be the equivalent to the United States declaring that henceforward this nation would only export food grains in consort with other major national grain exporters toward extorting the highest prices possible. It would be an untenable position for the United States to take given its espousal of free international trade, and its responsiveness both in law and conduct to the communal economic well being of other nations, not to speak of the humanitarian disaster it would entail.
Russia's actions have given the Obama administration-elect an opportunity to show the American public and the world, that this new administration will not sit idly by as oil interests attempt to game the market under the protection of an acquiescent and supportive administration as at present. That the days of oil patch hegemony over Washington are at an end.
Perhaps one of the first orders of business on the energy front for the new administration should be the passage and signing into law of NOPEC legislation, legislation that has wide support in Congress that would permit legal process against nationally sponsored oil companies as those of the OPEC cartel members. NOPEC legislation would remove the judicial technicality that permits OPEC to flout American law under the rubric of "sovereign immunity". Legislation an obdurate President Bush has repeatedly threatened to veto.
And no, this is not a pleading simply for lower oil prices, but rather a recognition, as currently construed, the transfer of wealth to oil interests and oil nations presents an imminent danger to our national security. (In case of any doubts of OPEC intentions one need only look at its defacto leader, Saudi Arabia, whose entreaties at this past weekend's OPEC meeting in Cairo militated for a 50% increase in price to $75/bbl. A price target initiated by none other than King Abdullah who in June proclaimed, "We are very concerned for consumers in all countries".)
The diminution of fossil fuel consumption is in large measure another aspect of the same issue and will be largely dependent on the vision and leadership of the new administration. President-elect Obama has clearly stated his intention to confront this issue. We can only hope for our sake and that of our progeny that he will succeed.