Wars and rumors of war

I want to say something about the Russian invasion of Georgia.

Really, these types of events are to be expected in these times, and they are not very pertinent to our ministry in Maine. But, it is pertinent in that this is the lead-up to the war that my kids will be fighting on the ground in Europe and Asia some day.

Most folks, I believe, are missing the biggest motivating factor for the Russian invasion.

Yes, Georgia is a democracy with close ties to the USA, right on the Russian border.

Yes, Putin has megalomaniac dreams of rebuilding the old Soviet Empire – sort of a Second Reich for the Russian Motherland.

Yes, Russia wants to intimidate other little states nearby to bring them into line … “or else.”

But I think that the key motivator was a lot more basic: money.

Russia is the largest energy producer in Europe. They have ample oil resources, which has been key in rebuilding the economy and military after the devastation wrought by the communists during the Soviet era.

Instability in the Middle East always works in their favor. High oil prices mean huge profits for the Russian energy industry. The recent run-up of oil prices has brought billions of dollars into their hands.

The announcement by the U.S. that off-shore drilling will resume is widely credited for the plummeting oil prices of the last two weeks. Plummeting oil prices mean plummeting profits for Russia and other oil producers.

People are sensitive about their pocket-books. Just look at our churches: preach about morality and people shout “Amen,” but preach about money and people get mad and leave.

Putin, who has been more of a gangster-crime-boss figure (and probably runs the Russian mob) in Russia than a government official, is not about to sit by and watch his pocket-book take a hit to the tune of billions of dollars. He wants oil to trend upwards, not plummet downward.

He chose Georgia for its proximity to the Middle East, its Black Sea oil terminals, and for the key pipelines that run through the southern part of the country. Putin’s ultimate hope, I believe, was to destabilize world oil markets to stop the downward trend of energy prices.

If Russia had wanted to, they could have taken the whole country within 5-6 days, while the world sat watching the Olympics and hesitated to act. But conquest is not the goal. They don’t want another costly military occupation, such was the one they have in Chechnya.

They want to create instability and doubt. Conquest would have quickly brought stability (albeit under the Russian fist), and stability would have continued to drive oil prices downward and the U.S. economy upward.

A worldly commentator once said that if you want to know the truth of a situation, you must “follow the money.” There’s a lot of truth to that.

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