Follow the Russian Natural Gas
If you want to understand Carter Page
To make sense of Carter Page — an American oil consultant and former foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump — you have to look at his proximity to Ukraine, Russia and some seemingly bizarre natural-gas deals.
Back in the mid-2000s, future Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort set up shop in Ukraine to do some consulting work, bringing his protégé Richard “Rick” Gates to assist. Both have been hit with criminal charges by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller and his team.
On one level, the duo ran the politics for disgraced pro-Russia Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych won Ukraine’s presidency in 2010 in large part due to Manafort’s efforts and the scheme detailed below. He was driven out of power in 2014 by Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution.
This plot involved massive natural gas deals between Russia and Ukraine and their main intermediary RosUkrEnergo. Russian oil giant Gazprom generally sold gas to Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Vasylovych Firtash via RUE at a significantly discounted price. Firtash would mark up the prices when selling the gas onward to Ukraine.
The profits — billions of dollars — were then allegedly laundered by the Russian mafia and used to bribe and control Ukrainian politicians to bend them to Putin’s will and increasingly make Ukraine’s political system subservient to Russian interests.
Ukrainian politicians who were not in Putin’s pocket resisted this arrangement, leading to a major dispute over the gas deals in January 2006. Russia ended up shutting off Ukraine’s gas in the dead of winter. A new deal even more favorable to Putin resulted — one that made RUE the exclusive, direct supplier of all Russian and Central Asian gas imports.
Along with Gazprom, RUE sold to a new joint venture between RUE and Ukraine’s Naftogaz called UkrGazEnergo, which in turn marketed oil and gas to Ukraine’s industrial customers. RUE itself sold to Naftogaz for onward sale to Ukraine’s residential and municipal customers.
Another part of the deal involved the major Russian state-owned power company RAO UES, which paid for and imported Ukrainian electricity to sell in Russia. Ukraine generated this power from the gas UkrGazEnergo acquired to sell within Ukraine.
Carter Page after dropping off documents to the House Intelligence Committee. @jeremyherb photo
Obviously, this scheme gave Firtash additional points with which he could mark up prices and generate a profit. It’s telling that gas already being transported by Russia’s Gazprom pipelines into Ukraine through RUE — itself half-owned by Gazprom — was being used to generate electricity in Russia.
This confusing arrangement makes no logistical or logical sense, as it would have been easier for Russia to just ship gas from Gazprom to RAO through Russia. But for allegedly generating illicit funds in order to dominate Ukrainian politics, it all makes perfect sense.
Enter Page. He moved to Moscow in 2004 to set up Merrill Lynch’s office there and remained until 2007. During this period — in which the complex gas deals were scouted, negotiated and put into effect — Page claims to have advised both Gazprom and RAO on major deals.
Despite his warped, very pro-Russian worldview, Page clearly possesses deep knowledge of the energy sector and regional geopolitics. The apparently informal meet-and-greet, wine-and-dine roles he often played offered him perfect opportunities to soak up gossip from drunken gas executives celebrating their blatant corruption.
Page was only too eager to trade in information. Even if he was hardly a major player, it’s hard to accept that he wasn’t aware of the Eurasian gas scheme. He advised not one but two major entities on opposite ends of the corrupt process. Thus it’s extremely likely he had some inkling of the improper nature of the RAO-Gazprom dealings and how they helped to undermine U.S. interests in the region by pushing Ukraine away from the United States.
For those arguing against Page’s importance, don’t forget that George Papadapolous also held a junior position with the Trump campaign, but still played a key role in linking the campaign to Russia and prompting the FBI’s ongoing Trump-Russia probe. Papadapolous has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and has become a cooperating person of interest in Mueller’s probe.
After his stint in Russia, Page in 2008 founded — along with Sergey Yatsenko, Gazprom’s ex-deputy head of finance — investment firm Global Energy Capital LLC. Yatsenko was among a number of Russians and Russian officials with whom Page met during and after the time he was attached to Trump’s campaign. By 2013, Page was calling himself “an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”
Page’s pro-Kremlin views even convinced a three-man Russian spy ring to try to recruit him in 2013. That ring that was busted by none other than U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, who was later fired by Trump. The one member of the ring not protected by diplomatic immunity went to prison, while the man with whom Page interacted, Victor Podobnyy, avoided prosecution thanks to his diplomatic cover.
Page was under FBI surveillance in 2014. A second round of surveillance began in October 2016. The Trump campaign hired Page in 2016. Page is mentioned in the paid opposition-research effort that culminated in the dossier compiled by ex-intelligence official Christopher Steele.
The dossier and the surveillance of Page have become the subject of blatant distortion by Trump’s allies, who accuse the FBI and Department of Justice of conspiring against the former reality T.V. star. But there’s no conspiracy. Page has ties to Russia.