Russia Moving into Eastern Med Oil Bonanza

The wars for control of Syria, and actually there is more than one going on simultaneously, have a strong background in an undeclared war over who will control the region’s gigantic and newly-discovered oil and gas reserves.

Now, Russia has just secured a major contract with the Syrian government. This comes after they brilliantly handed President Obama a face-saving way out of unwanted direct military action in Syria by brokering a deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad to remove the country’s stock of chemical weapons. Regardless of whether Assad remains president, Russia holds exploration and development rights to a major part of Syria’s offshore waters.

On December 25, Syrian Oil Minister Suleiman Abbas on behalf of the Syrian government signed a 25-year deal with the Russian SoyuzNefteGaz company to explore for oil in the Middle Eastern country’s territorial waters off the Mediterranean coast. SoyuzNefteGaz is headed by Russia’s former energy minister, Yuri Shafranik, and its main shareholder is the Central Bank of Russia. It was founded in 2000 “to enhance economic cooperation with former Soviet countries, the Middle East and North Africa,” according to RIA Novosti, the state Russian news agency. It also has projects in Iraq and Uzbekistan.

The Syrian deal is part of Putin’s long-term strategy in the region, in other words.

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