The conflict in Syria, especially as it involves Russian and American interests, has been confusing, to say the least. It has been a practice in say-one-thing, do-another diplomacy, and in such a scenario, one must only judge actions to understand what is truly the angle of each respective country.
Vladimir Putin has publicly stated that Russia accomplished its goal in Syria – rooting out ISIS – and would be evacuating from the nation it has long supported militarily. To most, it made little sense. Why would Russia withdraw from a country with oil resources, especially when it had put forth such effort to defend the Assad dictatorship?
A logical answer would be ‘because Russia is in volatile economic times, and the appearance of warfare, including the tangible loss of life of Russian soldiers, may be unpopular enough to make Vladimir Putin’s seat warmer than it’s been in a long time.’
Still, the question remained: would Vladimir Putting really give up a war-torn Middle Eastern nation so easily after gaining such significant leverage over the Assad regime?
The answer is, obviously, no.
We found out this week that Putin would leave de facto Russian troops in Syria, only they wouldn’t look like traditional Russian troops. They would come in the form of mercenaries. A Russian mercenary attack on American troops occupying northern Syria would serve as a spark for what appears to be a much larger conflict that will be waged in the Middle East. Reports have stated that the attack could not have been perpetrated without the approval of Putin himself.
Turns out Putin is the menace he has been portrayed as, but his fury doesn’t come in the form of Twitter campaigns, at least not solely. The not-so-sleuth military attack is fitting of the former KGB officer.
And, this past week, an American air strike – with an assist from the media – confirmed the reality that Russia really wasn’t as intent on leaving the region as it had purported to be. Worse, the air strike killed approximately 100 of those mercenaries, a potential waking of the sleeping Cold War giant that so many had hoped the Trump administration was intent on avoiding.
The mercenaries-as-a-substitute-for-Russian-lives narrative has been openly posited by many a skeptic, and we now know it to be true. The following question is obvious: if Russia is intent on maintaining a military presence in the rubble that is Syria, what is their end game?
Apparently, we now have an answer for that question, too.
According to a report from Oil Price, Russia will now have exclusive rights to produce oil and gas in Syria. Who knew that Vladimir Putin wasn’t assisting Bashar Assad in warding off advances from America, Kurds, and ISIS out of the goodness of his heart?
The report even details how the Russians are going to go about monopolizing Syria’s most precious natural resource.
‘The agreement goes significantly beyond that, stipulating the modalities of the rehabilitation of damaged rigs and infrastructure, energy advisory support, and training a new generation of Syrian oilmen.’ (Oil Price)
The Russian takeover will undoubtedly serve to revive the Syrian oil industry, which has been devastated by the Civil War.
‘Before the onset of the blood-drenched Civil War, Syrian oil production wavered around 380,000 barrels per day. It has declined for some time then, since its all-time peak production rate of 677,000 barrels per day in 2002. Although the Islamic State was allegedly driven underground, the current output still stands at a devastating 14–15,000 barrels per day.’ (Oil Price)
To what extent Vladimir Putin’s men can bring the Syrian oil industry back to life remains to be seen, especially with conflict looming courtesy of Kurdish dissidents, an apparently still-not-defeated ISIS, and the United States military. Vladimir Putin is, by making this strategic resource grab public, admitting that Russia is, in fact, not leaving Syria.
In reality – and this is very concerning – Russia has more reason than ever to stay in the nation, prolonging the conflict indefinitely, and likely interminably. With troops already implanted to take on the Assad regime, the interests of American and Russian forces could not be more at odds. It’s going to be a long, ugly conflict, with Trump’s people not willfully permitting such an expansion of Russian hegemony and Putin’s not ceding any ground, especially with a nation’s entire oil and gas industry at stake.
This conflict has unfolded predictably, for many. Those who see through the words of world leaders and bogus domestic ‘collusion’ scandals saw that something bigger was brewing once President Trump made American intervention in Syria a reality. Russia was ‘leaving’, but there was no way they were leaving.
Now, that reality has come into the light, the wait for the other shoe to drop – unmitigated military conflict – is nothing more than a matter of time.