Breaking a drought of high-level US-Russia exchanges since the visit to Moscow of NSA Bolton in June, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry made a surprise visit to Moscow (September 13) and met the Russian Ministers of Finance and Energy. The principal objective of the visit was apparently to explore the possibility of Russian cooperation in keeping oil prices in check when the Iran sanctions kick in fully – on the eve of the mid-term US Congressional elections. A US press release said the two Ministers discussed how the two countries, as leading oil and gas producers, could cooperate “to ensure world energy market stability, transparency, and sustainability”. There was no indication of the Russian response or of what was offered in return for Russia taking a cut in its oil revenues. They also discussed their “mutual responsibility” to ensure that nuclear power is managed for peaceful purposes.
Secretary Perry also issued a warning on the Russo-German Nordstream 2 gas pipeline project, describing it as Russian use of energy as an economic weapon. The same message was reiterated a few days later by President Trump in a joint press meeting in Washington with the Polish President (another staunch opponent of the project). At the same meeting, President Trump indicated that the US would not impose sanctions on the European companies invested in the project [German, French, Dutch and Austrian]. However, the German government seems to have received different indications: a senior German official was quoted as saying that US sanctions on the European companies may be imposed as early as before the November elections. If this happens, it could have repercussions well beyond US-Russia relations.
September 30, 2018