While watching the RNC acceptance speech by Mitt Romney, which I thought was delivered very well, there was one statement that got my attention more than anything else Mitt talked about. That was the comment toward current Russian President Putin and having a bit less flexibility and more backbone. This was interesting, as I am not certain how calling Putin out nationally gives us any headway there.
I know why they have issues with Russia – the support of regimes like Syria and Iran through trade with them undermine US efforts. Since Putin has returned to presidential power (as he still pulled the strings when he was Prime Minister), he has certainly taken on more of a dictator role in opposition suppression. While the prison sentences for the members of Pussy Riot got international headlines, they are the tip of the suppression machine Putin oversees. He has seen that political supporters of his past campaign have been economically punished since his re-election. This includes arresting business owners that donated to his political opponents as well as denying access to products for re-sale.
However, this is not the Russia of Gorbachev that realized an arms race with the US would bankrupt the nation. Russia since the end of the Cold War has tapped into its vast oil reserves and has built more refineries than any other nation on the planet. Russia – not Saudi, Iraq, Venezuela, or India is the dominant supplier of crude oil to the world. Europe and China are its 2 greatest clients and that makes todays Russia more powerful and influential, and dangerous, than it ever was in its communist height.
The Republic of Georgia has controlled a part of the BTC pipeline since its inception in 2006. That pipeline was designed to sell oil to western clients from former Soviet bloc nations that were now free. Two years ago, Russia made a land grab for part of the pipeline. This move was part of Putin’s plan (he was Prime Minister then) to keep control on Caspian Sea energy reserves. In short, Russia has more economic clout than either the US or China with regards to energy supply. What that means to you and me is that the Russians have the cash to do whatever they darn well please and there is not much we can do about it.
The one thing Putin likes more than power is money and not in rubles or yuan, but good ole US Dollars. Russian crude products have traded in the Euro and Dollar for quite some time, but the potential collapse of the Euro has the Dollar looking very good to Comrade Putin. Maybe we can use that want to lure this big fish to the table to keep the Russians on the capitalist side of the world trade.
Otherwise, we have a real problem brewing in Mother Russia.