By Evgenia Pismennaya, Ilya Arkhipov and Henry Meyer on 4/13/2020
MOSCOW (Bloomberg) –Vladimir Putin’s deal with OPEC to cut oil output and boost prices three years ago was a triumph for the Russian leader, bolstering his clout on the global stage. But now he’s had to make stinging concessions after U.S. President Donald Trump stepped in to end a price war.
Amid relief in Moscow at the unprecedented deal with Saudi Arabia and other major producers to slash oil output, the accord marks a painful setback for Russia, said two people close to the Kremlin.
Putin had catapulted Russia into a dominant role in global energy politics and drove a wedge between the U.S. and its Saudi ally, as the two marshaled producers to limit supplies. But it’s now clear he overplayed his hand when he refused to meet Saudi demands to double output cuts just five weeks ago. OPEC’s biggest producer cranked up output in a price war that crashed the market just as the spread of coronavirus demolished demand.
With markets collapsing, Putin agreed to cut more than 2.5 million barrels a day of crude from the 11 million of combined crude and condensate Russia pumps each day, more than four times the reduction that he turned down in early March and more than what Saudi Arabia is obliged to cut from its output level last month. Meanwhile, hopes that the U.S. would formally commit to its own curbs have evaporated, even as Trump takes credit for bringing about the new deal.
The ill-fated decision to face off against Saudi Arabia in early March was “a strategic mistake and now we’re paying the price, a much higher price than we could have paid,” said Andrey Kortunov, director of the Kremlin-founded Russian International Affairs Council. “This looks like a victory for the U.S., and Russia ends up a bigger loser than Saudi Arabia.”
If the cuts are achieved, Russia’s output for the next two months will drop to the annual average last seen in 2003, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the Russian Energy Ministry and BP Plc’s Statistical Review. Russia agreed to continue smaller cuts until May 2022, though it did manage to hold onto one concession by keeping condensate, a light fuel of which it is a major producer, out of the quotas.
But Russia completely failed to anticipate the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world economy when it walked away from the agreement with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other big producers known as OPEC+, said a senior Russian official. Holding that alliance together would have prevented the collapse in prices to an almost two-decade low that followed. Now, the Kremlin has had to negotiate a new arrangement under highly unfavorable terms, he said.
The decision to compromise over the cuts to crude output is…