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Alexei Druzhinin / AP

ExxonMobil is asking the Trump administration for a waiver so it can return to work in Russia despite sanctions leveled after President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014.

In a scoop, the Wall Street Journal reports that the oil giant filed its waiver request with the US Treasury Department, and not the State Department, which is led by former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.

Why this matters: If granted, the waiver would erode one of the most powerful American levers against Russia in terms of getting it to pull back from Ukraine. Russia relies on oil and natural gas exports for a majority of its government income, but the current generation of oilfields will start to peter out in the coming decade.

The fields on which Exxon has been working—deepwater fields in the Arctic, and the Bazhenov shale in Siberia—are meant to carry the Russian economy starting in the 2020s and beyond. The waiver appears to cover work in the Black Sea, which is also a primary target of next-generation Russian interest. But it could be a wedge into a broader revival of work including the Arctic and the shale.

Go deeper

22 mins ago - World

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

3 hours ago - World

Biden says he won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.