The Russian President is taking a chance by intervening in a bloody civil war in Syria, but his gamble is a calculated one
You have to give Vladimir Putin credit—he has a special talent for changing facts on the ground and daring others to do something about it. Russian bombs are now falling on Syria, though Putin’s intentions remain a subject of debate. But here’s the bottom line: Russia’s strongman has restored his country’s status as a major international player. These 5 facts explain Putin’s calculations for joining the fight for Syria.
1. Putin’s Popularity
Putin has used tough foreign policy words and deeds to boost his popularity at home from the very start. When he was first appointed prime minister in 1999, Putin had an approval rating of 31 percent, and 37 percent of Russians didn’t even know who he was. Less than a year later, his approval rating soared to 84 percent following a series of mysterious apartment bombings, which he was quick to blame on Chechen rebels. When Putin launched his five-day war against Georgia in August 2008, his popularity jumped another five points, despite the deaths of 67 Russian servicemen and an outcome of uncertain value beyond Russia’s ability to remind the neighbors who’s boss. Putin kept up the anti-Georgian propaganda for months after the conflict, helping him preserve an approval rating in the upper 70’s despite an 8 percent drop in Russian GDP over the course of 2009 as the global financial crisis sent oil prices plummeting.
(Forbes, CNN)
2. Russia’s Submerging Economy
Putin needs to find new ways to pump up Russian pride, because it’s been a rocky few years for the Russian economy. The most immediate culprit is that plunging oil price, which currently sits below $50 per barrel. Oil and gas sales bring in nearly 50 percent of Russia’s government revenues; they also account for 68 percent of Russia’s export proceeds. Moscow is so dependent on oil sales to keep its economy chugging along that Russia is estimated to lose $2 billion in potential sales for every dollar the price of oil drops.
Sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine have only made things worse for the average Russian citizen. Prices have shot up 16 percent since August, the ruble has fallen 5.5 percent against the dollar, and Russia& …Read More