Russia’s brazen confidence in its victory in propping up Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s once-failing regime grows day by day, as evidenced by Moscow’s latest oil deals with the Syrian government.
Sputnik news reports that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin visited Damascus in November to get the ball rolling on the fossil fuel deals.
"We already started with some of the companies after his visit … the Syrian market is free now for Russian companies to come and join and to play an important part in rebuilding Syria and investing in Syria," Assad said, according to a report last week. “The process of signing the contracts, the final, let's say, steps of signing the contracts is underway.”
This isn’t the first we have heard of Russia’s interest in Syria’s fossil fuel resources. In February, Dmitry Sablin, a lawmaker from the Duma, confirmed that Assad had greenlighted Moscow’s energy projects in the country.
"With regard to oil and gas production, he said that neither Iran nor China have companies with a worldwide reputation in this field, as Russia has, so in the oil and gas production, he [Assad] sees only the work of Russian companies," Sablin said.
To be fair, Iran’s “worldwide” reputation was likely maimed due to six years of international sanctions against the nation’s oil sector, which were only lifted in January of last year. As the world’s largest energy consumer, China is occupied with making sure locally produced fuel remains available for domestic use. Beijing’s foreign efforts have been focused on securing access to reserves in African countries, such as Angola, Nigeria, and Sudan. Related: Low Oil Prices Won’t Deter Russia From Arctic Drilling
Rogozin’s visit to Syria was announced less than two weeks after the United States’ presidential elections, which saw the rise of Donald Trump to power. The transfer of power from a Democratic to a Republican White House accelerated Moscow’s pace of intervention in Damascus – not out of fear that coming actions by Trump could derail the Kremlin’s plans, but out of assurance that Washington would reduce its support of rebel groups as the Obama doctrine collapsed.
"The trip was moved because the Syrian president came himself to meet with our president… I think that in the upcoming months, or maybe even weeks, this trip will take place," Rogozin told Rossiya-24 television just two weeks before making the November 23rd trip.
Russian integration into the Syrian economy will range from energy production and port repairs to the revival of the ancient city Palmyra, which was destroyed by fighters from the Islamic State (ISIS), largely to shock Westerners who viewed the vandalism and bombing of centuries-old statues and mausoleums in online videos.
“The issue on the table was how to strengthen Russian economic interests here for a long time,” the prime minister said, directly. “It means the potential participation in major projects aimed at restoring the Syrian economy, as well as energy sector, ports, and other large-scale infrastructure projects.” Related: Putin And Erdogan Drifting Away From The West
This “to the victor, go the spoils” attitude allows for an outcome that mimics what happened during and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Several American companies, such as Haliburton, received lucrative contracts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild damage suffered by the nation’s vital oil industry. In this case, though, it was the U.S. taxpayers that footed the bill, not Baghdad.
Russian economic interests in Syria will cost Assad’s regime, however.
To help Damascus bear the costs, Moscow’s new contracts will establish a new joint bank to help “make transactions easier,” according to an article by Russia Today. As of November, the value of signed deals between the two countries stood at $904 million, but that number, as indicated by Assad, is due to rise.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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