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Oil pump jacks work in unison on a foggy morning, Williston, North Dakota, Dec. 19, 2014 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

Global Oil Price Drop Gives Obama, U.S. Foreign Policy a Boost

Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014

In the waning days of 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy, roundly castigated by critics for most of the year as being weak, feckless and indecisive, appears to have been vindicated by more recent developments. Eschewing the calls for immediate reactions to a series of disparate events—from anti-government protests in Venezuela to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine—the president opted for diplomacy and sanctions, augmenting his existing approach to perennial problems like Iran and its nuclear program. Now, the story goes, a whole list of U.S. opponents, from Cuba to Iran, are moderating their defiance of Washington and looking for ways to negotiate settlements. Even Russia has now agreed to restart talks to settle the Ukraine crisis.

How much of this is due to U.S. policy, however, and how much can be attributed to the collapse of global energy prices? Former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin recently opined that between “25 and 35 percent” of the reason for the dramatic decline in the value of the ruble—a very public symptom of the ailing Russian economy—could be attributed to Western sanctions. In assessing Cuban President Raul Castro’s willingness to normalize relations with the U.S., former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge G. Castaneda specifically cited “the recent collapse in the price of oil” and how this has negatively affected the “two countries . . . on which Cuba has historically depended to keep its economy afloat: Russia and Venezuela.” ...

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