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Putin’s Syria strikes are a long-term play for higher oil prices


Russian airstrikes in Syria, the first launched by Moscow outside the former Soviet Union since 1979, have set the tone for what’s to come. The escalating attacks have mainly targeted moderate, western-backed rebels. Civilians have also been hit, while Russian jets have twice violated Turkish airspace.

These immediate transgressions have shown that Putin, as always, will go his own way in this war. He will draw on as much of his military strength as he needs to, he will use indiscriminate force, and he will bully and intimidate the west’s regional allies.

In short, Putin will stop at nothing in pursuit of his goals and the international community needs to understand exactly what those goals are. Putin’s game is bigger than many commentators currently realise.

Yes, this is about Russia’s international standing, but more importantly it is also a long-term play for higher oil prices and, ultimately, a flow of oil dollars intoRussia to strengthen his popularity at home.

The international aspect is relatively transparent. Putin has to prop up his ally and force his way back in from the cold on the global stage. Syria is home to Russia’s only naval base in the Middle East and has long been a buyer of Russian arms and a supplier of regional intelligence.

More importantly, however, he cannot be seen to stand by and allow Assad to fall. He needs to show the US and the world that he will not retreat from the position he staked out at the start of the conflict.

By wading into such a complicated international


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