What I've read about it, in 2009 or 2010 a Russian company bought a 20% share in Uranium one, a Uranium mining company based in South Africa that is US and Canada owned. No physical Uranium was shipped to Russia, it was more of a financial investment, but I admit, I'm not crystal clear on it being an American company mining in South Africa and how exactly that works.

Obama could have veto'd the deal (per snopes), nobody else had that power. According to Snopes, Rumors of money paid to the Clinton Foundation are largely bogus and unsubstantiated.

My question is, is there anything criminal in this or unwise from a national security stake in this? Snopes says that no Uranium was sent to Russia. Fox News kept mentioning Eric Holder, but I admit, I didn't listen very carefully and reading the articles that came out the last few days, they all seem to cycle back to the story from 2016 that was, at the time, unsubstantiated, at least according to Snopes.

Is this a threat to national security or illegal in any way.

  • Based on lack of prosecution, I don't think anything is known to be provably illegal (not a conclusive proof, admittedly, but a good indicator. I doubt Sessions would pass up a chance to prosecute Democrats over something like this).
    – user4012
    Oct 24, 2017 at 15:33
  • Also, I don't have time to write up a complete answer, but if your question is more nebulouse "national security concerns", the answers aren't all obvious. For example, one thing you rarely see mentioned is precedent - this specific deal may not be an issue per se; but its existence creates a precendent for more deals like that, which either in aggregate or on their own are an issue, yet are now easier to green-light.
    – user4012
    Oct 24, 2017 at 15:36
  • Also, 20% may not sound like much but for a typical publicly traded company that's basically likely to be the largest and most influential shareholder. What is the ownership of that company in terms of other 80%?
    – user4012
    Oct 24, 2017 at 15:37
  • 1
    @user4012 I'd settle for arguably illegal, and reading up on it further, that seems unlikely. What I won't settle for (and might vote down) is an answer that argues that because Sessions wants to pursue it, there must be something there. We both know that's not how things work. But in addition to Russia's Uranium reserves (9% of the worlds), they're buying up other reserves over cost. I trust Putin about as much I trust my cat to watch my dinner, but this is a tricky one. Hillary had nothing to do with it, but did Obama fumble? Trying to work it out.
    – userLTK
    Oct 24, 2017 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


Is this a threat to national security or illegal in any way.

For the first part of your question only (national security threat), from an author I don't fully agree with on Uranium and Russia (he thinks the sanctions on Russia are really about natural gas and he thinks the sanctions are foolish) - he proves that Russia is a large producer of Uranium while the US is seeing a decline in production and imports quite a bit of Uranium for nuclear energy production (sourced from the EIA). Is nuclear power dominant right now? No, but strategically, if it becomes more important in the future, it might not be wise to lose a position in a company that is a large producer, assuming this is why the US owns a portion of that company.

The counterpoint to this argument is why don't we see this with oil? Some of the largest producers of oil are enemies of the US and the US has toppled one of them, but it would seem more logical that oil is considered a national security threat since only about 19 percent of our energy is from nuclear.

  • So not illegal, but not necessarily in the US's best interest.
    – JAB
    Oct 24, 2017 at 17:20
  • @JAB I'm not a lawyer on the legal part and that gets really sticky fast, especially with sovereign countries. I'm not qualified to answer that part of the question. I can understand the national security part of the argument, but wonder why that isn't applied to oil, rare elements (China owns a lot of these), etc. Seems odd that it's only uranium.
    – FalseHooHa
    Oct 24, 2017 at 17:30
  • Some of the largest producers of oil are enemies of the US. This is a myth and completely incorrect. The largest producers of oil for import into the US are Canada, Mexico and South America. The middle east is a distant 5th and of that, the Saudi Arabian pennisula (Most of the governments there are friendly) is the largest Oct 24, 2017 at 17:30

There is nothing illegal about Russia, or companies in Russia, or even companies in Russia that front for the Russian government, buying US uranium... if the US government determines that this purchase is in the best interests of the country.

However, if that approval was preceded by payments from Russian interests to high US government officials who directed or influenced that approval, or payments to the spouses of those officials, or payments to that official's private charity, then it becomes a case of those officials accepting bribes and using their considerable power in their own financial and political interests instead of the interests of the US citizens. That is very illegal.

This NYT article, published back in 2016, highlights the curious circumstances surrounding the US government approval of the sale of Uranium One to Russian interests, a company that owned 20% of the US uranium mining rights.

As the article notes, a Chinese company had been turned down on the basis of state security, when they sought to buy a US mining company with far less uranium rights.

And one can't accuse the NYT of being a far right mouthpiece.

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