Russian Oil ‘Can Ease Reliance on Mideast’

In an effort to decrease dependency on oil sources in the Mideast, US Senator Conrad Burns called for increased cooperation with Russian officials and oil companies. The senator hopes the development of Russian oil infrastructure will reduce the U.S.’s reliance on “rogue-oil” – an issue of particular sensitivity in light of President George Bush’s recent talk of war with Iraq. On October 1-2, the administration plans to attend a US-Russian commercial energy summit in Houston. At present, the only Russian oil entering the U.S. is through Yukos, a Russian oil company that delivered one symbolic shipment of crude last July 4 and another this past month. – YaleGlobal

Russian Oil ‘Can Ease Reliance on Mideast’

Nancy Dunne
Friday, September 13, 2002

A senior US senator called yesterday for intensified co-operation with Russia to develop its oil infrastructure and a shift away from dependency on "rogue oil" from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

In a speech prepared for delivery at the National Press Club, Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican, harshly criticised Saudi Arabia as a place where "the Wahabi clerics have a strangle-hold on freedom" and "young men genuflect to jihad as they are indoctrinated into a bastardised religion of terror".

A spokesman for the senator said the speech had been developed in close consultation with the administration. A spokesman for Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, who was shown a copy of the speech, said the administration does not agree with the comments on the Saudis but endorses moves to decrease US dependency on Middle East oil.

Congressional and administration efforts to boost US oil imports from Russia have been moving into high gear as the Bush administration debates a pre-emptive war on Iraq. "Russia and the Caspian states present the biggest opportunity in oil exploration and production for America," Mr Burns said. The "friendship and trust" between George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, "affords America a historic opportunity to share new technologies and modern management with our Russian ally".

The administration is preparing for the US-Russian commercial energy summit on October 1-2 in Houston, hosted by Spencer Abraham, the energy secretary, and Don Evans, the commerce secretary.

Igor Yusufov, Russia's energy minister, German Gref, its minister of economic development, and more than 100 US and Russian energy companies are expected to attend.

Russia supplies almost no oil to the US but Yukos, the Russian oil company, sent a symbolic shipment of crude to the US around July 4 and a second shipment last month. The administration is hoping to encourage more private infrastructure investment to boost imports from Russia.

Blake Marshall of the US-Russia Business Council said the summit is expected to produce several partnerships and joint venture agreements encouraged by what he called "the night and day changes in behaviour" by Russian companies, which now have western audits, independent directors and western-trained executives.

Congressman Curt Weldon, a senior Republican on defence matters, is expected to introduce a resolution calling for an expansion of Russian imports. It is to be co-ordinated with a similar resolution to be introduced in the Russian Duma.

Bud DeFlaviis, a spokesman for Mr Weldon, said the resolution - although not binding - would lay a foundation for legislation next year directed towards boosting investment in Russia's infrastructure.

"They have something to sell and we would be the perfect buyer," said Mr DeFlaviis.

Copyright 2002 Financial Times Company