Exxon Mobil has asked the Trump administration for a waiver excluding them from Russian sanctions. They would use the waiver to continue with plans to work with the Russian government oil company, Rosneft, to drill in the Black Sea.
The request is raising questions. The original project began back when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon Mobil. During his tenure as CEO, Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship from Vladimir Putin for his role in forging the agreement.
Exxon first applied for a waiver in 2015, but was turned down by the Obama administration. The sanctions were in place against Russia after its invasion and annexation of the Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. The sanctions forbid, for example, U.S. companies from working with the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, because of his ties to Putin. Additionally, the Obama administration was concerned about cutting-edge technologies Russia might acquire through a partnership with a company like Exxon Mobil.
Exxon previously was granted a waiver in 2014 for the completion of a well that was already under construction. Exxon had requested the waiver on the ground that leaving the well incomplete would be a safety hazard. The request made this week, however, is based on how it would improve Exxon’s profitability, instead of on humanitarian, environmental or U.S. interests. The company faces up to $1 billion in losses if the deal is not completed, which would entail beginning exploration by the end of the year.
The State Department will be involved in the Treasury Department’s decision to approve or deny the waiver. Tillerson has recused himself from any decisions involving Exxon for the first two years of his tenure as Secretary of State.
This request also comes as the Trump administration continues to face criticism and requests for investigation of the relationship
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