Monday, August 24, 2015

Might Putin Provoke a War in the Middle East to Boost Oil Prices and Save His Regime?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 24 – As the price of oil and the exchange rate of the ruble continue to fall, Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner in the Moscow energy consulting firm RusEnergy, says that Russia needs “to do something” to save itself by reversing the slide in oil prices and the recession in the Russian economy.

            According to him, there are in principle only two ways to raise oil prices: boost demand or cut supplies.  In the short term, at least, there is little Moscow can do with regard to the former; but it has an option with regard to the latter: it could provoke a war in the Middle East that would close the Persian Gulf (

            Were that to happen, Krutikhin says, the world’s supply of oil would decline “at a minimum” by a third and prices would shoot up to what they were several years ago or even higher, a development that would end the pressure on the Russian economy and hence on the Russian political elite.

            In any political system, there are always radical ideas being considered by someone, although they are not always articulated in public as in this case.  Because of the dangers involved for others, there are two questions that need to be addressed:

            First, could Russia do this?  Almost certainly by means of its influence in the region or, even more likely, by a false flag operation in which Russian operatives would do something against one or more countries in the Middle East that another country or countries would blame not Russia but the country from which such actions emanated.

            And second, might Putin do this?  Unfortunately, it is entirely possible that he might.  He has shown himself contemptuous of international law by invading Georgia and Ukraine and annexing Crimea and equally contemptuous of the rights and standard of living of the Russian people except to the extent any of these things affect his own political survival.

            Consequently, while Krutikhin’s suggestion may seem far-fetched if it involved almost any other leader – except perhaps the North Koreans and a few others – this risk, which would send shockwaves through the entire international economic and political system, should be carefully monitored and to the extent possible blocked.

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