It was inevitable that sooner or later, Russian President Vladimir Putin –his personal fortune, estimated at $42 billion – would stumble. It appears that now, that moment has arrived.
When Putin invaded the Ukraine a few months ago, the West – led by the United States – responded by restricting the travel and freezing the bank accounts of some VIPs very close to Putin. A few days later, though, Putin countered by throwing a few billion rubles to strengthen any impediments in the banking network close to the Kremlin.
In light of those somewhat anemic sanctions knowledgeable analysts wondered whether the West would pull out the big guns: punish Putin by orchestrating a dramatic fall in oil process – a commodity on which the Russian economy is highly dependent.
Now, with the price of oil having fallen about 40% since its peak in June, that has amounted to a massive transfer of wealth, estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars – from the pockets of the oil barons to the consumers.
Quite significantly, the OPEC countries at their recent meeting, among them Saudi Arabia, declined to curb production, to their financial detriment.
Less supply would mean a rise in the price of oil – but, happily it did not happen. So, are these the “big guns” Putin was waiting to see if the U.S.-led West would unleash?
Moreover, as if that were not enough, the West threw another monkey wrench into Putin’s geopolitical strut: putting pressure on Bulgaria to curb its collaboration with Russia on the South Stream pipeline, which would pass through that nation, and through which Putin would effectively have controlled Southeastern Europe.
Despite having invested $22 billion in the project, given Bulgaria’s recalcitrance, Putin decided to cancel it.
Surely this evokes recollection of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline, in which Greece was also involved which was also canceled after strong pressure from the West.
So, after these significant setbacks Putin turned to that troublemaker for the West, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: a pipeline through Turkey, that would give that nation an additional three billion cubic tons of natural gas per year, at discounted rates, of course.
To that, there is a Greek dimension: Putin said the pipeline might be connected with Greece, too, if market conditions permit in Europe.
And, let me add, in the West as well.