Ben Geman Mar 8
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The future of the OPEC-Russia alliance

Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia arrive for a meeting at the Grand Kremlin Palaceon on October 5, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

OPEC aims to cement its alliance with Russia and other non-OPEC producers, who have been jointly limiting output since 2017 in an effort to restore market balance. Less clear is what form that longer-term alliance might take.

One possible future: Via S&P Global Platts, "Russia is not seeking to become a member of OPEC, but will continue working closely with the producing group even after the ongoing supply cut agreement ends, Aleksey Texler, Russia's first deputy minister of energy, said Tuesday."

What to watch: I caught up in Houston with Helima Croft, a top analyst with RBC Capital Markets, who notes that while responding to the U.S. shale surge has helped bring OPEC and Russia together, the strategic implications are deeper.

  • A key relationship to follow is what she calls the good rapport between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Croft says:
"I look at the Russia-Saudi partnership and say, it’s becoming increasingly thicker than oil, and so I think it will be durable in terms of the market management and coordination going forward."“That, to me, is the bilateral partnership that will shape not only oil policy, but a whole host of strategic issues in the Middle East.”

Be smart: Croft says a key element is the "deep commercial relationship" developing, noting Aramco's interest in taking part in Novatek's Arctic LNG-2 project and other ties. She believes the Saudis may see an opportunity to show Russia that "potentially you should think of the Saudis as a better friend for you in the region" than Iran:

Quote“I think there is a bit of soft power diplomacy that the Saudis are using as well with the Russians.”
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D.C.'s March for our Lives: "The voters are coming"

Protestor at D.C.'s March for our Lives.
Protestor at D.C.'s March for our Lives. Photo: Stef Kight / Axios

D.C.'s March for our Lives event is expected to see more than half a million participants.

Why it matters: While D.C. is the primary march, there are hundreds of others around the world and across the country. Led by students, the march is "to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address" gun issues, per the organization's mission statement.

Haley Britzky 8 hours ago
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DOJ eyeing tool to allow access to encrypted data on smartphones

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Justice Department is in "a preliminary stage" of discussions about requiring tech companies building "tools into smartphones and other devices" that would allow law enforcement investigators to access encrypted data, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This has been on the FBI's mind since 2010, and last month the White House "circulated a memo...outlining ways to think about solving the problem," officials told the NYT. Both FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, support finding ways for law enforcement to access data without compromising devices security.