The threats to oil and global commerce from the crisis in Ukraine is gaining massive coverage, including an unconfirmed 'cease fire' that has been negotiated between Kiev and Moscow. But the other major crisis brewing for the oil markets is the continuing Ebola outbreak in Western coastal Africa.
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The crisis in Ukraine is not lessening and only changing its focus as Europe and the U.S. move away from a goal of returning the Crimea and the Western Ukraine to Kiev's control and towards a protection of Ukrainian sovereignty. President Obama's appearance in Estonia was designed to ease the fears of Baltic States neighboring Russia, who must be feeling the pressure from an increasing military presence of Russian forces and arms in the Ukraine. Even the talk of fresh sanctions from Europe received little reaction from Russia as the EU reserved most of their strongest economic targets from attack.
In short, Vladimir Putin is winning in Eastern Europe. While the U.S. and the EU use words, Russia continues to use energy supplies and armed support to gain influence and territory.
Meanwhile, the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa shows no signs of slowing and without a new medical inoculation to slow the infection rate will ultimately drift into Nigeria and the Niger delta, source of 2.6 million barrels a day of oil production. Not one of those barrels are produced in Nigeria without the help of Western oil companies and their technicians, but it is unclear whether the threat of an epidemic is enough to get Shell, Chevron, Exxon and other oil companies to begin to send their workers home and slow production in the area.
Finally, these oil risks are being accompanied by traders now returning to their desks from summer vacations, and a reduction of outright long positions from speculators over the past two weeks, both always good signs of increased interest in the oil trade.
I talk more about oil with Jim in the video above.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.