Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, has been mentioned repeatedly in news coverage about the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia.
Page owns the New York City firm Global Energy Capital LLC, located right next to Trump Tower, and lived and worked in Russia for a few years. Beyond that, however, he comes across as somewhat of an enigma, with little known about his past. Yet his own scholarly writings on the topics of geopolitics, energy, and climate, along with other career details, reviewed by DeSmog, may offer deeper insight into who Page is and how he came to assume the role of a Trump foreign policy adviser.
Page left the campaign in September 2016 after it was revealed he had visited Moscow, Russia in early July to give a speech at the New Economic School titled, “The Evolution of the World Economy: Trends and Potential,” just weeks before the Republican National Convention (RNC). Page eventually confirmed he had met with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at the RNC, but says it was a brief conversation and one among many he had with various ambassadors.
“The perspectives of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit both acknowledge the relative contributions of diverse parties while aligning closely with the respective competing economic models,” Page said in his July speech, in which he pointed to the “Great Game” theory of foreign policy in Central Asia as an anachronism. “Free market approaches have tended to incentivize positive relative performance by corporations through its inherent architecture of encouraging mutual benefits for shareholders and management.”
“Great Game” is a theory originating in the 1904 article “The Geographical Pivot of History,” written by Halford Mackinder, a British academic. It stated that the battle for geopolitical global dominance lay in Central Asia, calling the territory the “Heartland.”
An overarching theme of Page’s scholarship is his preference for international business collaboration in the private sector rather than competition between nation-states. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Page was also mentioned in the unverified dossier, now playing a guiding role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, which was written by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele. According to that dossier, Page may have been offered a brokerage fee – if U.S. economic sanctions toward Russia were lifted – for what became the December sale of a 19.5 percent stake in Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. That stake in the company was sold to the Qatar Investment Authority and Glencore.
However, Page denied he received any stake in the deal, also denying he ever spoke to anyone about it, in a recent letter he submitted to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He wrote, “I have never met with any member of that company’s executive management.”
Clinton, Bush White House
Though often portrayed to the contrary, the Trump campaign was not Page’s first dip into U.S. politics. In 2000, President Bill Clinton named him a semi-finalist to become a White House Fellow.
“White House Fellows spend a year serving the President as full-time paid special assistants to members of the Cabinet and senior White House staff,” explained the Clinton White House. “The more than 500 alumni of the program have gone on to become leaders in all fields of endeavor, fulfilling the fellowship’s mission to encourage active citizenship and service to the nation.”
Page was also later named a regional finalist for the same White House fellowship by President George W. Bush in 2007.
“Carter Page, PhD”
During the campaign, Donald Trump introduced Page simply as “Carter Page, PhD,” when he named his foreign policy advisory team in March 2016. Page obtained his PhD at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). While there, he wrote a dissertation published in 2011 under the title, The influence of semiperipheral powers on the balance between capitalism and socialism in Central Asia: an analysis of Russias [sic] impact on governance and the regional energy sector 1987-2007.
Page also contributed a chapter on energy geopolitics in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea region to the 2004 academic book The Caspian: Politics, Energy and Security. In his chapter, he gently critiques U.S. foreign policy elites for promoting oil and gas extraction in the region over human rights. During this time, he was working for Merrill Lynch’s global equity capital markets group as its business manager for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. He would eventually become chief operating officer of the company’s energy and power group.
“While many of the political battles that the U.S. has waged in the Caspian have been held in the energy and security arenas, Washington has also given some limited attention to the social condition of the people of these regions. This has consisted of a fairly low-profile attempt at improving the social situation,” wrote Page in that chapter.
“However, perhaps the element of U.S. policy that has been most challenging has been seen in the shortfall in attempts to bolster observance of human rights … In most instances, these objectives have lagged behind the broader geopolitical goals of increasing oil reserves and enhancing security in Central Asia.”
In the chapter, Page also calls for increased “negotiation, understanding and co-operation” between the U.S. and the Central Asian states, which he correctly points out have troubled human rights records.
While completing his PhD, Page incorporated Global Energy Capital LLC in New York in 2008, which he co-runs with Sergei Yatsenko, a former executive at the Russian state-own gas company Gazprom. Page also founded another company in 2013, Global Natural Gas Ventures LLC, which went defunct in July 2015, according to documents filed with the Oklahoma Department of State.
Climate change in Paris and fossil fuels in the Caspian
Before the December 2015 United Nations climate negotiations in Paris, France, Page wrote an article for the Global Policy Journal, in which he expressed both concern over climate change and his take on some solutions.
“Just as protesters have historically expressed impatience with the current status quo and related policies, the growing momentum surrounding clean energy innovation can be observed in many civil society and business initiatives being unveiled in Paris,” Page wrote.
“Given the potential stakes of the future manifestation of catastrophic climate change, this field increasingly offers a rare case study of collaborative interaction across diverse states given the fertile ground for international cooperation. Political solutions based on respect and understanding might only be ripe for progress when the shared risks are so high.”
Before entering academia, Page served as an International Affairs Fellow at the industry-funded and influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “where his research focused on the economic development of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, with an emphasis on Caspian Sea energy resource issues,” according to his biography published in the 2004 book.
According to a transcript from a 2007 CFR event, Page then “represent[ed] the companies” aiming to tap into the oil and gas reserves near the Caspian Sea. The companies involved in onshore drilling in Kazakhstan’s Tengiz field include ExxonMobil, Chevron, Kazakhstani state-owned company KazMunayGas, and Russian state-owned company LukArco (then co-owned by BP), which together created a joint venture named Tengizchevroil.
“Bright and capable individual”
As an undergraduate student at the U.S. Naval Academy, Page penned a 1993 senior honors thesis titled, “Balancing Congressional Needs for classified Information: A case study of the Strategic Defense Initiative.” Ironically, the ongoing congressional and U.S. intelligence community investigation over Russia’s intervention in the 2016 U.S. election cycle has opened up a debate over what information should remain classified and what information should be presented directly to the U.S. public.
While at the Naval Academy, Page also worked as a research fellow for the House Armed Services Committee from September 1992 to May 1993. He worked on behalf of U.S Rep. Les Aspin (D-WI) (who represented the district now represented by House Republican Majority Leader Paul Ryan) and then U.S. Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA). Aspin went on to serve as President Bill Clinton’s first Secretary of Defense.
During the transition period between the George H.W. Bush presidency and the Bill Clinton presidency, Page worked on the Clinton transition team. After graduating from the Naval Academy, Page worked on nuclear affairs and international policy at the Pentagon.
“It has been a long time,” his senior thesis advisor, U.S. Naval Academy political science professor Steve Frantzich, told the publication Brightest Young Things in a recent interview. “Whatever one thinks of his politics, Carter is a very bright and capable individual.”