Oggi, parlando con caro amico nonchè esperto di chiara fama, riflettevamo sul calo del prezzo del greggio e sul comportamento dell’Arabia Saudita che, almeno per ora, non contrasta tale calo riducendo la produzione di greggio. Ci si chiedeva: è una strategia saudita che, approfittando della congiuntura economica, mira a lanciare un segnale di forza agli altri Paesi arabi e soprattutto agli USA? Sono gli USA che, approfittando della suddetta congiuntura, vogliono indebolire la Russia (come ai tempi di Reagan negli anni ’80)?
Se lo chiede anche il New York Times, in effetti. Ciò che sembra certo, per l’appunto, è che il livello di prezzo attuale sta creando grossi problemi a Mosca, a Caracas, a Bagdad ed alla stessa Ryad:
A steep decline in oil prices is straining the budgets of major petroleum-exporting countries around the globe, raising a specter of spending cuts in Russia, where the economy is under pressure from Western sanctions, and posing a potentially grave security challenge for Iraq, which is already struggling to finance its fight against the Islamic State.
From Moscow to Caracas, Riyadh to Baghdad, in Tehran, Algiers, Kuwait City and Lagos, political leaders, finance ministers and central bankers have been scrambling to confront the plunge in prices — roughly 25 percent since a peak in June — driven by increased production in the United States and by projections of sustained cuts in demand in many developed countries, as well as decelerating growth in China.
While Russia maintains reserves of hundreds of billions of dollars as a cushion for precisely this sort of price drop, there are already signs of tensions here.
At a meeting in Moscow this week with a government human rights council, President Vladimir V. Putin pointedly rebuffed a request for increased financing, citing the pinch from declining oil revenues.
“You know that energy prices have fallen as well as for some of our other traditional products,” Mr. Putin said. “Due to that, would we not, on the contrary, reconsider the budget toward reducing some spending?”
It was a notable departure from the bravado that Mr. Putin has shown in responding to Western economic sanctions over Ukraine, dismissing them as little more than an annoyance.
In another sign of mounting pressure, a spokesman for the Russian state-controlled oil company, Rosneft, accused Saudi Arabia of secretly manipulating prices — an echo of conspiracy theories about American and Saudi collusion against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Last week, Venezuela, which depends on oil for 95 percent of its export revenues, called for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to address the steep slide in prices, a move that other members rebuffed in favor of a regular meeting next month. […]
In the near term, the big producers will probably face budget problems in varying degrees of severity, with an array of economic, strategic and political ramifications.
“It depends how long and how sharp the decline, but if oil prices stay around 20 percent lower, that is going to be very challenging for countries that depend heavily on oil to meet their budget requirements,” said Jason Bordoff, the director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University in New York. “Many of these countries have implicitly high break-even numbers.”
Professor Bordoff said that Russia and Iraq faced particularly difficult circumstances, partly because of broader geopolitical tensions in each region. Russia, already squeezed by inflation and a drastic decline in the ruble, has found its ability to borrow money severely constrained by the sanctions. Iraq is facing a costly, and potentially open-ended, military conflict against the Islamic State.
“If oil prices were to stay in the range they are in now, we’ll see the Russian budget fall into deficit next year; that’s on top of the economic challenges they are already facing from sanctions and the decline in the value of their currency,” Professor Bordoff said. “Iraq has its own set of challenges with skyrocketing public expenditure requirements, large public payroll, food and energy subsidies. They need to rebuild a dilapidated armed forces.”
Some major oil producers are already experiencing substantially more budgetary pain from the decline in prices, particularly Venezuela, because of underlying economic problems, and Iran, which has faced years of Western economic sanctions over its nuclear energy program. Nigeria faces particular political uncertainty because it has a presidential election coming up early next year.