First, Vladimir Putin is not Hitler. Not even close. Putin is hampered by a nationally fatal shortsightedness, blinded by the prism of Russian history and culture, and torn between modernizing an oil weighted economy and appeasing oligarchs who could sieze control of the country, or at least split into the Balkan-type civil fracturing of a nuclear power. That isn’t altogether different from the United States, by the way.
In my 2014 book, A TRAGIC FATE: Politics, Oil, the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the Looming Threats to Civil Aviation Kindle Edition by WC TURCK http://www.amazon.com/TRAGIC-FATE-Politics-Malaysia-Airlines-ebook/dp/B00RPXWDPK I described the dangerous position Russia has found itself, desperately grasping for economic and social equilibrium through the control of oil and gas reserves.
The Syrian crisis illustrates Putin’s precarious position precisely. First, the historic correction of oil prices, affected by a sluggish global economy, de-escalation between Iran and the West, the end of supply-chain disrupting wars, Fracking and OPEC’s assault on Fracking’s profitability, carbon emission initiatives and green technology threatens Putin’s economy and security. More than 2/3 of the Russian economy is based on oil revenues. Low prices are devastating to Russia, exactly the opposite of America’s consumer-based economy. Tensions in Syria with the insertion of Russia’s military appear to have driven a spike in oil prices, opening October 1st at nearly $47.
Second, Western, and particularly US policy and action in Syria’s civil war has proved a complete failure. According to the International Business Times Syria has ” 2.5 billion barrels of crude oil as of January 2013, which makes it the largest proved reserve of crude oil in the eastern Mediterranean according to the Oil & Gas Journal estimate.”
While the US wants Syrian President Assad out, envisioning a chaotic scenario akin to the Libyan debacle, that leaves the door wide open for Putin and Russia to step inside. The airstrikes this week confirmed that Putin is less interested in assailing ISIS than he is in supporting Assad.
The pay off for Russia is clear. Syria possesses vast reserves of oil, gas and oil shale as yet untapped because of the fighting. Think of Syria as something of a mini-Crimea, which Putin siezed from Ukraine because of its strategic interest and proximity to Black Sea oil and gas reserves. If Putin, as he sees it, can end the fighting and alleviate pressure on Damascus, or sweep it off into a corner of the country the appreciation of Assad would pay untold dividends for Putin.
It is all short-sighted of course. The world will only continue moving father and farther away from reliance on fossil fuels. Putin and his government have shown little or no inclination in evolving and adapting to that eventuality. That short-sightedness may be the most dangerous component of all of this. No matter what direction Putin goes, without divesting from oil and gas as the bulwark of his economy, disaster and danger are only a heartbeat away.