Will Russia Actually Curb Oil Output?

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MOSCOW — Global oil prices were in a deep slump. And because oil profits lubricate the Russian economy, the Kremlin was casting about for a solution.

So Russia’s leaders set politics aside and cut a deal with Saudi Arabia: Russia agreed to join the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on a production cut, with the intent of lifting global oil prices.

On the face of things, the agreement worked: Prices picked up, and along with them the cost of gasoline and consumer goods in developed countries.

There was just one catch: Russia, in fact, did nothing.

“There was a beautiful public relations effect,” said Aleksey I. Turbin, at the time a senior official at the Ministry of Energy who helped negotiate the deal with the Saudis.

That was 16 years ago, but once again, an oil-dependent Kremlin is, if not exactly desperate, at least eager to prop up prices, and again questions abound on whether it is serious about cutting output or just assembling another public relations effort.

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