Whither Mr. Putin?
This morning I read “The Russia-Saudi Arabia Price War On Oil Explained,” by Abhinav Dholepat in Dialogue & Discourse here in Medium. It got me to wondering what Vladimir Putin is up to. The other accounts of that price war that I have read suggest that Prince Salman and Saudi Arabia are bound to win, but our intrepid author outlines a strong case for a possible Putin victory.
Putin inserted himself into the Middle East by coming to the military aid of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. He has been gradually strengthening his position on the ground ever since. Meanwhile, the positions of all other actors involved were getting weaker one way or another.
Then Recep Erdogan decided to insert Turkey into the situation militarily. That has caused moments of friction between Turkey and Russia, but the two have avoided outright conflict and worked towards accommodation.
Now Putin seems to be trying to wrestle Saudi Arabia to the ground in the oil field. If he is successful, Russia’s only rival in the Middle East west of Iran will be Turkey.
Turkey is a member of NATO. If it were a member with close ties to the other members of the alliance Turkey would be a significant rival for Russia. That is not currently the case, but the prospect of Russia dominating the Middle East might be sufficient incentive for the members of NATO to close that rift.
Could that happen? Well, the most important member of that alliance is the United States. President Trump is on friendly terms with both Erdogan and Putin.
If this scenario were to play out, it would be interesting to see what Trump might do — not to mention how and why. If he were to side with Putin, and succeed in keeping NATO out of it, that would put Russia in firm control of global oil, not to mention the dominance it would enjoy in the geographically most important part of the planet (as anyone who has ever played Risk fully understands) . . .which makes me think that is what Putin is up to.