But some Russian observers believe that it did. (Hat tip: Randy McDonald.) Short version: the Russians did not offer to cut production enough back in October 2014. This sent the Saudis into a fit of pique and crashed oil prices.
Oh gosh. First, Russia is not a swing producer. It is hard for the Russians to cut production, especially in winter. Only the Saudis and Emiratis have the capability to shut down millions of barrels per day of production simply by turning a bunch of valves.
Second, the Saudis really do not act out of pique. Not with billions of dollars at stake. We know exactly what they are trying to do, because they have told us. In June, Saudi Arabia increased production by 500,000 barrels per day. They did not do that because they were worried that the Russians might free ride on a production cut. They did that because they wanted oil prices to stay low for a while.
Sure, in October the Russians might have tried to counteract the Saudi production hike. (Operative word: tried. Moscow is not lying when it says that such a cut would be technically impossible unless you were willing to risk permanent damage to the fields.) But why in the name of God would they have bothered? Just a few months before, the Saudis had jacked up production. The Saudis could have taken production down by 2½ million barrels per day (the 2010 level); five times what Russian critics think Moscow should have done.
And the Saudi and Russian oil ministers talk to each other. The Russians would have known Saudi intentions. The Saudis would have known Russian technical capabilities. This is not the Vietnam War; the two sides do not have to communicate via the energy market equivalent of strategic bombing.
Russia is a big important country. But the oil price decline, that one was caused by the dynamic duo of the United States (hooah!) and Saudi Arabia. The world’s weirdest superhero and sidekick. But there nonetheless.
Sorry, Russia. You are not that important.