Exclusive: Rep. Al Green tells BLP Russians after U.S. cold-water drilling technology for Black Sea

Big League Politcs reporter Neil W. McCabe with Rep. Alexander Green (D.-Texas) (Screenshot from Capitol Intelligence video)

The Democratic Texas congressman who forced the Dec. 6 vote on the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump told Big League Politics Tuesday he is not satisfied that Republicans in Congress or the Trump administration are defending vital cold-water drilling technology from Russian poaching.

“I think that we have seen an unusual affinity for the Russians from this administration and I am concerned that this affinity may not be in the best interest of our technology–when it comes to the Black Sea,” said Rep. Alexander Green (D.-Texas), whose district includes most of southeast Houston.

Minutes before Green spoke to BLP, the congressman shared his concerns at the hearing of The Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee held at the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing was focused on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the board inside the Treasury Department that approves and disapproves capital investments from overseas.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Garland H. “Andy” Barr IV (R.-Ky.) opened the hearing by reminding his colleagues that America has traditionally welcomed foreign investment, but there have been times, such as in the 1970s, when OPEC nations flush with “petrodollars” were buying up U.S. property and businesses and in the 1990s, when Japanese individuals and companies, enjoying that country’s last major boom, were also shopping for U.S. properties.

Barr said he was open to reforming CFIUS and its rules in light of the new trend of buying from the China.

Rep. Garland H. “Andy” Barr (R.-Ky.)

“Working together we can modernize the CFIUS review process so that it better addresses security threats, while avoiding undue harm to U.S. business at home or to its efforts to compete abroad,” he said.

Green redirected the hearing to the transfer of technology.

“I am concerned about energy, I am a representative from the state of Texas,” Green said to his colleagues on the subcommittee. “My concern emanates from technology that Russians don’t have. They seem to have the ability to drill, but really the technology.” and ability as is needed to drill in the Black Sea, where it is extremely cold.”

Rep. Alexander Green (D.-Texas)

Green said that in 2012, Rex Tillerson, then the CEO of Exxon-Mobil and now the secretary of state, signed a deal with the Russians that would have had his company partner with the Russians in Black Sea drilling.

The deal was thwarted, but Green said the question still remains how could an American company come so close to helping the Russians.

Admiral Dennis C. Blair, co-chairman of the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, and former Director of National Intelligence and member of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, told Green that it was was a very complicated question.

Blair told Green that an increase in the world’s oil supply was a good thing for the U.S. economy.

The admiral said there he had no economic objection, because American companies in these partnerships have learned how to protect their proprietary tools, but there were geopolitical considerations.

Theodore W. Kassinger, a partner in the Washington law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, and a former deputy Commerce secretary also for Bush fils, said to the congressman that as a practical matter, such cooperation as was set up in 2012 could not happen today because of the sanctions against Russia after its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

Kassinger said as a theoretical matter, because there is no monopoly on cold-water drilling, it might be better for American companies to get the business instead of someone else.

Speaking afterwards to BLP that access to cold-water drilling technology is very important to the Russians and it may have been a factor in their involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The Texan said the Russian have a massive naval base in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol and their naval forces would are poised to protect more Russian drilling in the Black Sea if it would come to pass.

“Russia is a cold-water country” Green said. “They have very few outlets to warm water. They have Tartus in Syria, where they have a base, a very small base, and they have the Black Sea, which allows them to get into the Mediterranean–I mention this point, because they need our technology to acquire additional opportunities to move their oil, not only to their country, but to their military.”

Green said he appreciated the subcommittee bring up the panel, which in addition to Blair and Kassinger included Scott Kennedy, the director of the Project on Chinese Business & Political Economy at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies and Derek M. Scissors, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

It is important for Americans to be able to compete without jeopardizing American national security by strengthening our rivals at our expense, he said.

“That is why we are holding the hearing, so as to make sure we find methodologies, by which we can do business without giving up technology,” he said.

Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee met today to evaluate the operations of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and the challenges posed by a changing global economy.

Watch Rep. Alexander Green (D.-Texas)speak with BLP reporter Neil W. McCabe and Capitol Intelligence reporter Peter K. Semler.

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