Russia's President is using the Syrian crisis for other endsby Bill Browder / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
With Vladimir Putin’s recent military foray into the Middle East, everyone is wondering why exactly he is there. Russia’s President would have the world believe that he is helping to defeat Islamic State. More sceptical observers would say that he is in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad and to protect Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base at Tartus. The shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces in November has made Russia’s presence in the region even more complicated.
While there is some truth in the justifications, Putin’s primary reason for military intervention has nothing to do with Syria. It has to do with Ukraine and the economic sanctions the west imposed on Russia after its invasion of that country in early 2014.
Putin presents a self-confident facade to the world, publishing videos of his workout routine and touting his supposed 89 per cent approval rating, but the reality is that he is in a state of raw panic. Russia’s economic crisis is accelerating. Russian companies have hard currency debt in excess of $600bn which, because of sanctions, cannot be refinanced by western banks. The only source of funds to repay this debt is the $400bn in cash at the Russian Central Bank. Under most projections, Russia will run out of money in two to three years unless sanctions are lifted. He desperately needs the sanctions lifted.
The most obvious way to achieve this would be to abide by the terms of the Minsk II agreement, agreed in February 2015 and signed by Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany. This package of measures was designed to tackle Russia’s de-facto invasion of Ukraine. It would require Russia to halt its support for rebel forces, withdraw its heavy weaponry and military personnel from eastern Ukraine, and stop trying to redraw the map of eastern Europe.
Russia and the west are locked into a new violent normal
Putin’s plan for Syria
Ukraine’s tug of war
Unfortunately, one of the things I have learned from my own conflicts with the Putin regime…