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Are Oil Companies Cutting Deals With Putin To Undermine US Sanctions?

Rachel Maddow's in-depth report exposes the end run multi-national oil companies are doing around sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia.

Rachel Maddow's feature piece Friday night is quite long, but worth watching end-to-end. If you don't have time for the whole thing, leap to around 16 minutes in and watch from there.

She begins by discussing the International Space Station payments the US still has to make to Russia -- at least, for the mission that's underway right now -- and ends by revealing the wanton ways of oil companies.

Long story short: While President Obama was crafting a new set of sanctions for Russia if Putin fails to keep his end of the Geneva agreement, Shell Oil's CEO was sitting in Putin's house, cutting a deal for expanded activity in Russia. BP is getting in on the action too, along with ExxonMobil.

Maddow's question: Can any government tell these multinational companies what to do? And, by Russia's creating a huge national oil company and a huge natural gas company, is Russia now too big to fail, in diplomatic terms?

Shell Oil is glad to continue doing business with Russia.

Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden won a promise of support for the plan from President Vladimir Putin today at a meeting at the Russian leader’s residence near Moscow.

Putin is pushing to add oil and gas routes for Russia to supply Asia, to tap growing demand and ease the country’s reliance on Europe. Shell and state-run OAO Gazprom, its partner in the Sakhalin venture, are looking at expanding capacity by 50 percent before a new wave of supply reaches markets.

BP in Russia:

Western sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine have not impacted BP's (BP.L) business in Russia, chief executive Bob Dudley said on Tuesday, reiterating the oil major stands by its Russian investments.

Dudley came under pressure at a BP shareholder meeting last week when some questioned the oil's major investments in Russia at a time of the most serious East-West rift since the end of the Cold War due to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Dudley is in Moscow to take part in a meeting of the Russian Geographical Society, where President Vladimir Putin heads the Board of Trustees. Dudley is a member of the board.

"We are rock solid with our investments in Rosneft and (we) will stand by our investments. For us it's business as usual," he told reporters before the meeting.


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ExxonMobil and Russia:

Targeting Mr. Sechin would aim directly at Mr. Putin’s inner circle. Rosneft, Mr. Sechin’s oil company, is deeply involved with Western firms. BP owns nearly 20 percent of the company, and ExxonMobil has multiple projects with Rosneft in Siberia, the Arctic, the Black Sea, Canada, Alaska and Texas.

Lawyers at ExxonMobil are researching the impact of sanctions against Mr. Sechin. Given that they would apply to Mr. Sechin personally and not his company, some specialists said it might mean little more than a logistical hassle because he could not travel to the United States to meet with his ExxonMobil partners.

It always comes back to the oil, doesn't it?

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