Watch Russia’s Rosneft to see the new direction of global petropolitics

Oil’s new eastern bloc

Igor Sechin is easy to caricature. The boss of Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil giant, is a burly man with close-cropped hair whose pastime is making sausages, reputedly out of deer he himself has killed. He is one of President Vladimir Putin’s most trusted henchmen. Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, he has been blacklisted by America and this year, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union put him on its sanctions list, too.

But he is no run-of-the-mill oligarch. The EU calls him “one of the most powerful members of the Russian political elite”. As a Rosneft man through and through, he has stood up strongly for the country’s oil-and-gas industry, which accounts for about 45% of the national budget. And he has a nose for geopolitics, which helps Rosneft shape and fund Mr Putin’s despotic adventurism.

That is why it is worth watching state-controlled Rosneft and its boss to assess their response to the withdrawal of Western oil companies from Russia. On the one hand, the company…