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The Strategic Imperative of Ethical Oil: It's Even More Brilliant Than You Think

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the march. Anyone who expects him to stop with the Ukraine -- particularly in the face of a timid response from the G7 -- doesn't know how far Putin is willing to go. After all, this is a man who didn't let his country's constitution, of all things, stop him from setting himself up as President-for-life.

Over the past few weeks, this has been said again and again. So has this: Russia's military might is an effective deterrent against direct intervention. More than this, Russia's energy reserves make it economically robust. But its overwhelming reliance on oil and gas sales to fuel its economy also make it vulnerable.

But that's also a huge vulnerability.

Proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have trumpeted its potential to counter Putin's geo-strategic power. By making a greater supply of Canadian oil available to meet demand, Keystone XL would tighten the market for Russian oil and reducing competition from American buyers in Europe's alternative markets.

That's one thing. But as Diane Francis points out in the Huffington Post, approving the Keystone XL pipeline could be a stroke of strategic genius for a President whose foreign policy has otherwise been one of staggering ineptitude.

Tightening the market for Russian oil is a pretty sweet strategic cake. But there's frosting on it.

As Francis points out, the output from the Keystone XL pipeline would deprive Venezuela, one of Putin's staunchest allies, of its American market. Venezuelan oil wouldn't progress much further into the American market than Citgo stations.

This means a lot of Venezuelan oil would instead be forced out into the global market, making it compete head-to-head with Russian oil.

That's bound to strain the relationship significantly. That would be an absolute coup for a President whose foreign policy legacy could desperately use one.

Then again, Barack Obama is also the President who went to party in Vegas while US embassies were under siege. So expecting him to be persuaded by the strategic brilliance of approving Keystone XL is far from a slam dunk.

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