What should President Obama do to de-fang tyrant Vladimir Putin?
He could start with two simple announcements tomorrow morning, as the
beginning of a campaign to finally show Moscow that Washington means
First, the president should announce a release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
That shouldn’t be so hard to swallow for a White House that sent 30
million barrels onto the market from the reserve in the summer of 2011
for no strategic reason other than to reverse plunging poll numbers as
gas prices neared $4 dollars a gallon.
Second, Obama should use this opportunity to finally approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
These two moves would be directed right at the heart of what makes
Putin tick — oil and natural gas — the only two things he holds dearer
than the restoration of Russian hegemony.
Brent North Sea crude, the European benchmark, closed Friday at
nearly $108 dollars a barrel. A number like that lets Putin sleep at
That’s because his Russia is addicted to energy as the main driver of
the economy. Oil and gas revenues account for more than a third of
Russia’s GDP and 40 percent of its tax receipts.
As Foreign Affairs Magazine put it, “For Putin oil and gas remain the only realistic source of capital for Russia’s growth.”
But Putin and his kleptocratic oligarchs have been more interested in
laundering their billions across Europe than investing in new
technology the way American entrepreneurs have over the past decade.
It’s that advantage that Obama must increasingly exploit to keep
Putin on his toes and out of eastern Ukraine and other regions on his
Our ally, an increasingly isolated Saudi Arabia, could likely be depended on to go along with such a White House program.
As former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel famously suggested during the
financial upheaval, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”
Mr. President, don’t waste this crisis to unleash America’s energy
might. As an added bonus, lower energy costs here can get the economy
back on track and mitigate the impact of a winter in most of the US that
has been simply Siberian.