Vladimir Putin made a lot of promises to voters in his recent run to reemerge as the President of the Russian Federation — about $160 billion worth of promises, to be more precise. Among them:
* He promised to increase Russia’s military budget by $787 billion to make the Red Army a far more advanced and aggressive fighting force.
* He promised to pay parents an $8,300 bonus for having a third child (given that Russians are having so few children that their population is steadily contracting and the Russian civilization is dying off).
* He also promised to increase pay for teachers, doctors and retirees.
* He also wants to build a “Eurasian Union,” a political/military/economic alliance — possibly with a common currency — with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and other Muslim former Soviet Republics to become a regional (and possibly global) powerhouse, possibly by 2015, or even as soon as 2013.
The problem is the Kremlin can’t possibly pay for all these promises unless the price of oil averages $150 a barrel, and oil prices have never consistently stayed that high and currently are averaging about $120 a barrel. This is the conclusion of an analysis by Citigroup, according to an intriguing New York Times story this weekend. “Taxes on oil and natural gas sales provide half of Russia’s government revenue,” notes reporter Andrew Kramer. “Each increase in the Russian budget equivalent to 1 percent of the gross domestic product requires a rise in the price of oil of about $10 a barrel on global markets — which is how Citigroup arrived at the $150-a-barrel figure for meeting the new obligations Mr. Putin has taken on.”
One possibility, of course, is that Putin won’t keep some — or any — of his promises.
Another, more ominous possibility, is that Putin is going to find a way to significantly drive up the price of oil, perhaps by fomenting turmoil in the Middle East.
Putin, for example, could quietly encourage a fresh wave of terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East. He was, after all, the former head of the KGB. Or he could tacitly goad Israel into a first strike against Iran, which would be followed by a full Iranian missile counterstrike against Israeli cities, coupled with a series of attacks against the Strait of Hormuz and the oil shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf. Such a scenario would certainly send the global price of oil soaring. Or Putin could sign a mutual defense treaty with Iran and warn Israel that an attack on Iran would be regarded by the Kremlin as an attack against Russia itself. That would throw a monkey wrench into Netanyahu’s plans to neutralize Iran’s nuclear program with a preemptive strike. Then Putin could go further: he could go to the U.N. in September and call for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. He could persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program. Then, in a move similar to what President Bush demanded of Iraq in 2003, Putin could demand that Israel disclose, dismantle and discard its weapons of mass destruction within 60 or 90 days, or face an international coalition willing to force Israel to do so. The prospect of another war in the Middle East would also cause the price of oil to skyrocket. Such moves — along with Putin’s desire to build a “Eurasian Union” in which Russia builds a political/economic/military alliance with the Muslim former Soviet Republics of Central Asia to become a new regional (and possibly global) powerhouse — could also set into motion the fulfillment of the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39 and the “War of Gog and Magog.”
It’s far from clear yet what path Putin will take to meet his lavish campaign promises. But this curious — and largely overlooked — New York Times article suggests the incoming Czar of Russia now has a specific and acute economic motive to foment turmoil in the Middle East. It’s a troubling development, to say the least, and one worth keeping a close eye on.
NOTE: In a separate development, a conference of Israeli experts are now warning Israel not to export the huge natural gas reserves it is now bringing online, but rather to keep them for domestic energy consumption and strategic national security reserves.
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RESOURCES ON ISRAEL, IRAN AND BIBLE PROPHECY
- Study notes on Ezekiel 38-39 — What Is The War of Gog and Magog?
- Study notes on the Book of Joel — Israel, Prophecy and the “Day of the Lord”
- Online video messages on the Old Testament Book of Joel from the 2011 Epicenter Conference
- Audio of Joel’s message on how God is shaking the nations (from the Book of Haggai, chapter 2) (given in June 2011)