Staunton, Feb. 21 – There is no question that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine primarily for political and geopolitical reasons. But there were other factors at work. His desire to control the water supply to Crimea is one; and the need to ensure that Russia continues to have access to rare earth minerals from Ukraine is another.
Russia currently lacks the ability to produce enough of these minerals to supply its military and aviation construction needs, and Moscow is worried that it may be forced to buy these rare earths elsewhere at dramatically higher prices or even be blocked from doing so by sanctions (nakanune.ru/articles/118381/).
This danger has attracted ever more attention in Moscow as relations with Ukraine have deteriorated; and it is at least plausible that Russian military planners may try to make sure that they can seize or at least prevent the destruction of mines that produce rare earths Russia needs but does not now produce in sufficient quantities.
Most of this discussion, the Nakanune news agency suggests, has been about the need to ramp up Russian production, something that could be done over the next decade if the government subsidized the development of mines that are currently not able to yield ores that are worth more than they would cost to produce.
But the fact that this discussion is taking place at all shows how much of a bottleneck denial of access to these rare earths could be for Russia, how tempting it must be for Moscow to try to seize the relevant mines, and how important it is for Ukraine and its allies to keep the Russians from doing so.
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