Russian Realpolitik Could Lead to Higher Oil Prices
The civil war in Syria and its many moving parts have Americans confused as to what should be the proper response from the United States. Especially confusing is the nature of the Russian involvement in the conflict; ie, their motivation for supporting and arming the Assad regime. To most Americans, Russia seems mysterious and difficult to understand.
Well I travel to Russia frequently and I think the issue is rather uncomplicated. To understand the Russian position, you need to understand what the Russians care about. It’s simple: Russia cares about what is good for Russia.
Ordinary Russians value stability. They want the trains to run on time. They’ve been on an economic and political rollercoaster for decades. Putin gives them that stability and that is the source of his hold on power. Yes the Muscovites protest occasionally against their loss of freedom over the last decade; however, they are a small minority. Putin governs for the people in the village. For example, the mothers of Beslan, where Chechen terrorists killed two hundred children and twice as many parents in 2004. Do you recall Putin warned us about the Boston Bomber?
Remember, over twenty percent of Mother Russia is Muslim. Putin is deathly scared of an Islamist uprising such as the one he brutally put down in Chechnya. Now, take a look at a map of the Middle East. Syria is historically a Russian ally and a customer of the Russian arms industry. Damascus is the Russian foothold in the Mediterranean. Notice how the Med feeds into the Bosphorus and on into the Black Sea. Talk about strategic!
Now realize that Russia’s foothold in the American Lake is being threatened by Islamic rebels who are trying to bring down the government of Assad. You also have their neighbor Turkey slowly drifting into Islamist totalitarianism. North of Turkey sits Chechnya.
So back to Russia’s motivation for supporting the regime in Syria. It is pure self-interest. They want to maintain a beachhead in the Mediterranean and prevent a takeover by an Islamist opposition. Don’t expect a change of heart from Putin on supporting Assad. You can expect him to continue to outmaneuver the United States and make Obama look like an amateur. While in Moscow recently, I asked a Russian friend why Russia supports Syria when they are brutally killing their own people. “I could give a damn about the Syrian people,” was his response.
What is the endgame of Russia supporting their Syrian ally no matter what? The risk is a proxy war between the West and the Russian Federation. Obama is now arming the rebels, although ever so slightly as far as we know. So you have a rehash of the Cold War playing itself out in the Levant with Iran involved as a third player on the chessboard. The risk of a lengthy conflict is high. Higher oil prices could be the result. This scenario is the poster child of why we should develop and harvest North American energy resources.