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Monday, January 12, 2009

Russia provoking war to raise oil prices?

In the Wall Street Journal, former chess master Garry Kasparov has an interesting theory to explain Russian behavior in the Middle East. Kasparov, who is a political rival of Russian President Vladimir Putin, claims that Putin is 'stirring the pot' in the Middle East in the hope of raising oil prices and helping the Russian economy. And then he takes Western leaders to task for being afraid to meet the challenge.
There persists a very damaging myth in the West, spouted by politicians and the press, that says Russia's assistance is needed with Iran and other rogue states. In fact, the Kremlin has been stirring this pot for years and has a vested interest in further increasing turmoil in the region. The Hamas/Hezbollah rockets, based on the Russian Katyusha and Grad, are not delivered via DHL from Allah. It doesn't require the guile of a KGB man like Mr. Putin to imagine a way to accelerate Iran's nuclear program, which has been aided by Russian technology and protected by the Kremlin from meaningful international action.

So the question for Western leaders is whether they doubt Mr. Putin would hesitate to provoke a war in the Middle East. If his regime falls, he and his cronies will face the loss of their immense fortunes and criminal prosecution when their looting is exposed. What are thousands of lives in the Middle East to a Kremlin mob that is openly preparing for the day when they will have to open fire on their own citizens to stay in power?


The leaders of Europe and the U.S. are hoping that the tyrants and autocrats of the world will just disappear. But dinosaurs like Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chávez and Iran's ayatollahs are not going to fade away by natural causes. They survive because the leaders of the Free World are afraid to take a stand.

Years from now, when Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is either dead or deposed, his legacy will lead to another genocide trial in The Hague. Why don't Western powers, many of whom are condemning Israel's action in Gaza, take action now to stop the extermination in Zimbabwe instead of waiting a decade for a trial? Criticizing Israel is easy while rescuing Zimbabwe is hard. Choosing the path of least resistance is moral cowardice. It does not avoid difficult decisions, it only postpones them.

Mr. Putin's Russia has invaded one neighbor and is threatening to freeze much of Europe by shutting down natural gas pipelines that flow through Ukraine. But since confronting Mr. Putin would take courage, Western leaders pretend his help is needed. This policy of self-deception will have disastrous consequences.
If that's Putin's game, I don't think it will be a successful one. Oil prices have dropped on economic news, and while they may go up temporarily (they spiked to $50 per barrel last week but were below $40 earlier today), a sustained rise will not be possible until the West's economic ills are cured. And that will take another year, if not more.

But Kasparov is spot-on in criticizing the timidity of today's Western leaders. The other thing they need to confront is radical Islam and there is no sign of any willingness to do that either.

And just think: A week from tomorrow the Hopeenchange administration takes power in Washington.


At 8:28 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Oil prices are going to start dropping again... they will probably keep dropping til it gets to be around $20 or so a barrel. No one's buying and the oil petro autocrats are not exactly swimming in cash either. The Gaza War caused at best a temporary spike in prices but the downward ratcheting effect will soon pick up where it left off. The regimes that rely on oil to restore their prestige and muscle are the weakest they are ever going to be right now. Unfortunately, the West shows no appetite in wanting to take them on and cut them down to size.

At 1:23 AM, Blogger Naftali2 said...

I've been writing about this on my blog--but I think it's Iran that's pulling the oil strings. That's who funds Hamas, they tried to open a front in the North with rocket fire (this didn't work), and today they gave explicit instructions to Hamas not to accept a cease-fire or they would cut off funding.

Now there is a weird relationship between Russia and Iran, and right now they are circling each other like dogs to see which will be dominant over the other.


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