The Trump administration has rejected Exxon Mobil’s application for a waiver from sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea and subsequent events in eastern Ukraine, dashing the oil company’s hopes that it could resume drilling in the Black Sea in partnership with Rosneft. “In consultation with President Donald J. Trump,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement last Friday, “the Treasury Department will not be issuing waivers to US companies, including Exxon, authorizing drilling prohibited by current Russian sanctions.”
The decision is the latest sign that President Trump has been unwilling or unable to improve relations with the Kremlin early in his term, after pledging as a candidate that he would seek a thaw.The prospect of a waiver had drawn denunciations from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, with Senator John McCain tweeting “Are they crazy?”
The matter was complicated by the continuing congressional scrutiny of reports of Russian intervention in support of Mr. Trump in last year’s election, and by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson’s role as Exxon Mobil’s chief executive until the president nominated him for his current position.
Exxon Mobil originally applied for the waiver in 2015, arguing that it could lose its exploration rights in the Black Sea if it did not begin drilling operations by the end of 2017 under its contract with the Russian state oil company Rosneft. The Obama administration did not act on the application, but Exxon Mobil hoped that the Trump administration would take a favourable view.