March 24, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 7956

Influential Russian Blogger El-Murid: Sanctions On Rosneft Over Venezuela Would Make War Inevitable Unless Putin Wisely Caves

March 24, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 7956

On March 11, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Russian oil giant Rosneft of defying US sanctions by purchasing oil from the Venezuelan state-owned oil PDVSA, which has been sanctioned since January. Pomepo said:

"Russia’s state-owned company, Rosneft, continues to purchase crude oil cargoes from PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, in defiance of US sanctions. And, Rosneft’s CEO, Igor Sechin, continues to throw a lifeline to the regime."[1]

It is worth noting that Pompeo's comments followed the US Treasury Department' sanctions on the Russian bank Evrofinance Mosnarbank, which is accused of helping PDVSA circumvent US financial restrictions.[2]

Responding to Pompeo's statement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:

"The threats coming from the US Secretary of State against the Rosneft company over its cooperation with Venezuela are senseless. It has been hit by sanctions since 2014, but continues successfully working. Meanwhile, its former US partners, whom Washington had forced to curtail cooperation, suffered serious damage."[3]

According to the influential Russian blogger El-Murid, if the US would decide to sanction Rosneft the consequence to it would be comparable to the oil embargo against Japan that was declared in his day by Roosevelt, which made the war in the Pacific inevitable.

Furthermore, El Murid noted, since Rosneft is Putin's most cherished possession, a blow against it would serve to undermine his authority among "all the Russian gangsters". "They will realize that their godfather is impotent even when his vital interests are at stake," El Murid stated.

Hence, El Murid suggested that Putin should find a compromise with the US on Venezuela, since a "comatose" Russia cannot afford to engage in a third war, after Ukraine and Syria.

Below are excerpts of El-Murid's article:


Adding Rosneft To The US Treasury SDN List May Become A Bomb

"With uncharacteristic tardiness, the United States is getting involved at the system level in the struggle in Venezuela. The Russian [bank] Evrofinance Mosnarbank was sanctioned, and then Rosneft was accused of purchasing Venezuelan oil in violation of the U.S. sanctions.[4]

"Given that Americans are reluctant to mention Rosneft needlessly (for the obvious reason that imposing full-scale sanctions against it that can potentially destabilize the global oil market, which is the last thing the U.S. needs), even a mild threat by the Secretary of State Pompeo seems an extraordinary measure.

"Rosneft of course has threatened to sue in response to the accusations, but that is in fact a predictable reaction - the choice is to either acknowledge [the accusations] and prepare for an escalation, or effectively smoothing things over, voicing loud indignation..

"Nonetheless, Pompeo's threat is no laughing matter. Adding Rosneft to the U.S. Treasury SDN [Specially Designated Nationals] list may become a bomb comparable to the oil embargo against Japan that was declared in his day by Roosevelt, which made the war in the Pacific inevitable.

"There is, however, a significant difference between now and then - the U.S. and Russia (especially so), are clearly not eager for a war (even if not a hot one). The motives behind the threat are quite obvious - Rosneft being a personal pocketbook of You-Know-Who [Putin], Pompeo's threat is an invitation to negotiate. The subject to be discussed is of course Maduro's fate.

"The U.S. is aware of the threats that a long and painful process of overthrowing Maduro, especially a violent one, can pose to the region. This is no Libya-Syria-Afghanistan beyond the three seas, it is right by the U.S. territory, and ten million refugees (inevitably followed by a secondary wave of refugees from other countries that may collapse under the pressure of events) - even Trump's wall may not withstand that, especially as it does not yet exist. That goes far beyond the simple seizure of Venezuelan oil, especially since those who have been actively stressing this point as being the main motive of the Americans, simply don't get it that the U.S. is already receiving all this oil without a slightest problem by virtue of being its main buyer."

A Blow Against Rosneft Would Undermine Putin's Authority Among All The Russian Gangsters

"In effect, the U.S. has been financing the Chavista regime throughout its existence. China and Russia came to Venezuela after the Chavista regime had so thoroughly plundered the country that it could no longer exist without external resources. Therefore oil is at best a peripheral goal of the U.S., especially given the fact that right now Trump and foreign policy are essentially separate concepts. Trump in fact has no foreign policy to speak of as a coherent and systematic plan of action. Venezuela has become a very annoying problem, a sudden and quite inopportune one. And that explains the delayed reaction [of the Americans].

"Now, however, something needs to be done - the collapse of such a country will set off a cataclysm all across the region. Trump simply cannot afford the risk, especially as he is about to start his reelection campaign. Democrats won't miss a chance to point out Trump’s fiasco right in the U.S' immediate neighborhood. And in fact, Trump's Republican opponents are bound to exploit this matter as well, therefore, he is forced to act.

"Trump is an aggressive businessman, and his strong point is to negotiate in the most forceful manner possible. That is why an offer to Putin regarding Venezuela was made from a position of strength. It is hard to say how far Trump is prepared to go, but one needs to understand that in politics (as well as in everyday life) you just can't afford to show weakness. To voice a threat, and then disgracefully make yourself scarce - well, we know ourselves how well that works ('Just let them try to shoot at women and children!' They indeed tried. And then again and again).

"This alone means that Pompeo's threats need to be taken seriously, especially as the U.S. is already experienced in destroying a leading aluminum company - Rusal.[5] The effort proved successful - the market has not collapsed and Putin was unable to do anything. And Rosneft being the most cherished Putin's possession, a blow against it would serve to undermine his authority among all the Russian gangsters. They will realize that their godfather is impotent even when his vital interests are at stake. And they will no doubt draw the appropriate conclusions. In essence, the offer that Trump made by way of Pompeo, sounds simple - butt out! Your assets and investments will be guaranteed, and the rest is none of your business. Otherwise, you stand to lose all that, and a lot more. Is that what you want?

"The proposal in fact seems to provide a face-saving opportunity. Putin had already received a similar offer on Syria, but first, it was made during the shift turnover between Democrats and Republicans, so it was not clear who was making it, and second, with Syria, Putin hanged a millstone about his own neck, so he acquired a certain expertise in rejecting reasonable offers. He would, of course, manage to do the same with Venezuela - but three wars are a bit too much even for a superpower, let alone a comatose Russia... All the same, the offer was made, even if not on the best of terms. But it is still better than a use-of-force scenario that nobody really wants."


[1], March 11, 2019.

[2], March 11, 2019.

[3], March 13, 2019.

[5] The United States imposed sanctions against Rusal in 2018.

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