Saturday, June 30, 2012

Putin in the Holy Land

What's up with Vlad's visit to Israel?

On the face of it he was simply attending the dedication of a monument to the achievements of the Red Army erected in Netanya. But obviously, there is more to it.

Tom Segev, writing in Haaretz, used the visit to take a backhanded swipe at Israeli politics. Putin visited because he is at home among the cynical opportunists of Lukid. Which may be true enough, but doesn't shed much light on anything.

At CNN Elise Labott saw the visit as an exercise in Russian muscle-flexing. Not likely. At CNN any stick is a good stick with which to beat Putin, but this sort of knee-jerk impugning of Putin's motives doesn't enlighten us either.

But I'm wondering, has there been a change in Russia's tone on Syria?

In Robert Fisk's Friday column he makes the case that behind the scenes at the Geneva conference the big dogs just carved up Syria.

And not just the big dogs. Fisk theorizes that the West has made a number of concessions to Iran, which in turn has conceded that Assad will eventually have to go.

But not just yet.

According to Fisk, Europe wants to see gas and oil pipelines from the gulf that will free up their dependence on Russia.

Look at a map.

Saudi Arabia and the Sunni statelets in the gulf want those pipelines as much as the Europeans do.

You can't build those pipelines without the cooperation of Iran or Iraq or Syria.

Since Iraq is now an Iranian vassal state, and Iran is the "enemy", that leaves Syria.

If Assad were to go, would Syria become a stable West-friendly ally happy to assist in the construction of that pipeline?

Maybe, maybe not.

"Maybe maybe not" aren't the sort of odds that Big Oil likes when embarking on multi-billion dollar pipeline projects.

Putin knows the jig is up sooner or later for Assad. What he has in common with the Israelis is that both were quite comfortable with that regime, and both want change, if change is inevitable, to be something they can live with.

For Putin that means a continuation of the European energy exports that have become the backbone of Russia's economy.

For the Israelis it means even more than that.

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