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The Oil Factor: The Real Reason Why Russia Is Fighting In Syria

25/01/2016 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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ALEXEY DRUZHININ via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (L) during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 20, 2015. Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on October 20 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, his first foreign trip since the conflict erupted in 2011. AFP PHOTO / RIA NOVOSTI / KREMLIN POOL / ALEXEY DRUZHININ (Photo credit should read ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

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Several months ago, in the middle of its worst financial downturn in six years, Russia abruptly announced that its decision to send troops into Syria to help fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

This certainly caught the US off guard, because until recently, Russia was not facing any direct threat from ISIS, and would have been relying on a US Intelligence media report which claimed that the terrorist group was caught on surveillance audio boasting about their downing of a Russian airliner.

When the smoke was cleared after the first week of strikes, the US and its allies realised that Moscow was not actually bombing ISIS.

Knowing the Russians, it seemed unlikely that they would launch themselves into a war that was based upon American intelligence; even the probable downing of a Russian plane by ISIS did not seem like a strong enough reason.

Moreover, Russia and the Western bloc (mainly comprising the United States, France, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands) were already entangled as surrogate enemies in a proxy war in Ukraine which forced the West to impose damning sanctions that were crippling the Russian economy.

Taking all of this into account, the United States must have been confounded that Moscow suddenly wanted to back a Western-inspired war at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

President Barack Obama immediately rejected any Russian involvement in Syria, and advised his Western Allies (Germany, France, and the UK) to do the same.

But as December approached, Germany and France were facing domestic pressures from the recent Paris attacks, and facing a political blame game in Berlin for "letting terrorists into Europe via their open door policy for Syrian refugees". As a result, France and Germany gave a pass to Obama's recommendation and formed an anti-ISIS war coalition with the Russians.

Soon, the bombing campaign in Syria was underway; with the Russians hitting targets at a scale was unprecedented since the Arab Spring began.

However, when the smoke was cleared after the first week of strikes, the US and its allies realised that Moscow was not actually bombing ISIS. Instead, the Russians were also hitting rebels that were allied to the United States, France, and Germany, or any battalion who were fighting against Syria's embattled President Bashar Al Assad.

The only way that Russia can restore a decent standard of living to its citizens, restore its global dignity, and pursue its military program is via funding from oil...

And in despite of Western protest, Moscow continued along this path, with Russian jets pounding the US-backed rebel strongholds for days, forcing them to flee from some areas.

Now, while this may certainly be a strategic warfare embarrassment for the West, many observers can't seem to figure out Vladimir's Putin's real reason for being in Syria. Why is he spending millions of dollars to fight a war that was not supposed to be his?

After all, Russia's economy is badly in need of money, after suffering billions of dollars of budget cuts and losses, due to an alleged American campaign that saw oil dipping from around $147 per barrel to a low of around $30.

This more than 200% price cut had caused Russia's currency to become useless as a result of daily devaluation, while forcing the average Russian to be subjected to food sanction that were reminiscent of the Soviet era.

The only way that Russia can restore a decent standard of living to its citizens, take care of its social services, restore its global dignity, and pursue its military program is via funding from oil, which they had budgeted at $114 per barrel.

But having seen the price of crude sinking to around $30 per barrel, Moscow knew that it would be plummeting further into recession and economic chaos if the price of oil did not rise again.

Therefore, if you take a closer look, the Russian President's hidden game plan seems fairly obvious. Russia is in Syria for the primary purpose of set off a war in the Arab oil-producing world. Because any flaring up of war in the Middle East would automatically result in the sudden uncontrolled rise of oil prices.

And of course, this sort of strategy is nothing new.

With the West being ahead of the Kremlin's oil strategy, there is reason to believe that Putin is desperately trying to find his way out of Syria.

We had seen oil prices doubling in the past as a result of the wars and civil disturbances in the Arab World, until recently when the United States allegedly managed to collaborate with Saudi Arabia to bring global oil prices down, thus directly or indirectly bringing Russia and Venezuela, two American nemeses, to their knees.

Thus, Putin knows that a war in the Middle East, and suddenly rising oil prices would mean more money for Russian oil, since it is the only thing that can help Moscow to survive the current US sanctions, and allow it to take control over the covert American sinking of the oil price.

But seemingly aware of his plot, the Obama Administration quickly maximised the United State's domestic oil output, and encouraged the Saudis to also increase their OPEC output levels, while relying on alternate energy sources for key US projects.

And from the current indicators worldwide, one can see that the price of oil has now sunk even further, contrary to Putin's hopes.

Hence, with the West being ahead of the Kremlin's oil strategy, there is reason to believe that Putin is desperately trying to find his way out of Syria.

After all, it will be useless for Russia to be throwing more money down the drain to fight an unwarranted war that has already lost it goals to American ingenuity.

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