Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not such a crazy idea

In an article on the RFE/RL website, Dmitry Sidorov presents an interesting hypothesis that I don't think is as whacky as some of his initial commentators think it is. He points out that it could be in the short-term interest of the Kremlin (i.e. Gazprom) for a war to erupt in Iran. Such a conflict would surely boost gas and oil revenues dramatically. These revenues are central to the operations of the Kremlin. Therefore, war is in the interests of those who rule Russia. (The Russian version of his article is found here.)

As the article points out, war might be in the short-term interest of the Russian government, but it does not mean that a war in Iran would benefit Russia in the long term. In the long-run, it could easily further degrade Russian power.

Of course, we have to understand the distinctions between the interests of the Kremlin and the interests of Russia. By implication, if not strictly by definition, the less democratic the country, the more the interests of its leadership and its people diverge. This is not a phenomenon limited to Russia. I remain convinced that it was no in the interests of the citizens of the United States to start a war with Iraq. It was, however, in the short-term political interest of the Bush Administration. It was in the interest of the military contractors who are so generous with their campaign contributions.

Likewise, a war in Iran could help the profits of Gazprom and Lukoil, the extractive industries linked with the Kremlin through interlocking directorships. What would be beneficial for Russia as a whole would be to reduce its dependence on these industries and to become truly democratic.

Unfortunately, I think a war in Iran is more likely than the democratization of Russia.