There are too many coincidences. There are just too many to think that the missile downing of Malaysian flight 18, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lampur was a mistake. And oil seems to be a major part of the coincidences.
This is what we know. We know that the flight that was downed was from Malaysia, an Islamic island nation not really on anyone’s support list right now, particularly considering the last botched airline mishap, the still unrecovered MH 370. Is anyone about to go to war because of a downed Malaysian aircraft? Well, let’s just say that the possible repercussions would be a lot scarier if that plane was marked Air France or United.
We know that the plane was shot down right at the border of Ukraine and Russia, right at the flash point of hostilities, right where Russian separatists are operating and controlling the region. One way or the other, Russia has a hand in the shooting here.
We know that US sanctions were ratcheted up yesterday, ostensibly to hit on the banking system, but really to hit an even more delicate target. The prime bank on the list of sanctions was for Gazprombank, the financial arm of the largest Russian oil company. This round of sanctions wasn’t about banking – it was about oil.
And the Russian stock market reacted to it quickly, dropping more than 3% in a day. This round of sanctions was immediately and strongly felt – and elicited a call from Putin to the US President. What was said on that call is unknown, but one imagined that the Russian President didn’t take kindly to the US targeting the single most important financial driver of the Russian economy.
And oil has been sinking closer and closer to $100 a barrel. Not for any good reason, mind you – the geopolitical risks in the oil market are as deep as I’ve ever seen them, but now that everybody’s long and on their summer vacations, you can’t find the new money to keep the oil markets propped up. Financial inputs are still by far the most important driver of prices.
But Russia’s economy congeals with oil prices below $100 a barrel – and no one knows this more than Putin. What tools does he have to counteract a Western attack on his oil infrastructure while the barrel price slowly drops? Not many – and not any that you or I might consider.
But Putin is a thug – and doesn’t play the game by Western rules. How does he send a message that he’s ready to deal with the Western ‘Marquis of Queensbury’ rulebook by stomping it in the mud and spitting on it? Could it be by killing 300 innocents flying on an airline over airspace of a disputed area he’s been pushing into while getting sanctioned for his actions?
And if such a dastardly act should also help to increase the price of a barrel of crude – would Putin complain about that either?
One further thing we know – and that’s that we’ll never know. The Russians would never admit to such an act and the US would never accuse them. The crash site is under separatist control and the ‘black box’ is headed back to Moscow.
There are just too many coincidences.