Advancing a Free Society

How Russia is Ruled: Insights from the BP Failure

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The failure of BP’s venture with Rosneft provides tantalizing hints about how Russia is governed and its 2012 Election. BP joins with Shell, Exxon, and other major international energy companies in chalking up yet another failure in Russia’s lawless investment climate. BP should have known better after losing management control of its TNK-BP venture to its Russian AAR partners. But this time, BP felt it had the right people on its side.

When BP signed with the Russian state oil company, Rosneft, to develop offshore arctic reserves, I expected this would prove to be yet another misadventure. But BP thought this deal would be different. It was negotiated with Putin’s right-hand man (Igor Sechin) and blessed by Putin himself at the signing ceremony. There was the small matter of an exclusivity agreement with BP’s billionaire-Russian partners in its TNK-BP venture, but BP thought that matter would be “taken care of” by the Russian side (a la Khodorkovsky?). Surely the Russian state would back a deal that could rejuvenate Russia’s lagging energy production and fill state coffers.

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