As Venezuela goes bankrupt, could Russia really be poised to take over the gas at America's Citgo filling stations? Let's just say Vladimir Putin and his minions are chess players who know how to play three steps ahead.
After all the hullabaloo about Hugo Chávez and his odious Marxist dictatorship controlling a large part of our oil supply, oil prices have fallen. With the fall, Chavistas have run out of other people's money, and the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, might not be able to pay its bills this year. Who should step forward to clean up the mess but Rosneft, Russia's oil giant, which just happens to be on the U.S. sanctions list?
According to CNN:
Citgo is owned by Venezuela's state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, which has put 49.9 percent of the company up as collateral for a loan from Rosneft. However, the Venezuelan company is cash-strapped and is having difficulty meeting its financial obligations. If it defaults on its loan to Rosneft, which analysts say could happen by the end of this year, Rosneft would gain control of Citgo and then could buy out the difference in shares to gain a majority ownership of the company.
CNN notes that Russia has a history of playing petropolitics with its neighbors. It's cut off oil to Ukraine and by extension Western Europe (admittedly because Ukraine did not pay its bills), and it's seized strategic other resources connected with energy, such as 20% of the U.S. uranium supply, taking advantage when uranium prices were very low. Many analysts think Russia wants control of Syria precisely to keep control of potential energy pipelines in addition to access to a warm water port.
CNN correctly notes that Citgo refines only about 800,000 barrels a day, less than 5% of what is consumed in the U.S., which, with the fracking revolution, has become energy-independent as well as a net exporter of fuel. But remember that Russia gained access to America's uranium supply by starting with a small stake and eventually expanding it dramatically. Could something like that happen with oil?
Well, in light of what we know, only if we are dumb enough to let it happen. I can't see President Trump letting it happen. At the same time, who knows when a default could happen? Would a Democrat in throes with Russian money such as John Podesta let it happen? That might be a different story.