Despite all the excitement the Second Gulf War is generating, it may be worthwhile to take a moment to reflect on the desperate maneuvering that took place in the UN Security Council in the final prewar weeks. It is too easy to dismiss that diplomatic dance as an empty show, since the failure to reach a consensus has important implications for the as yet uncertain constellation of actors, including Russia, that will be involved in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.
At the start of the year it was widely expected that Moscow would delay its final choice until the last possible moment, bargaining with both camps in order to maximize its gains. Putin’s unequivocal entry into the Franco-German antiwar camp clearly went against those expectations, and it appears to be much out of character. After all, in view of Putin’s efforts to cultivate a personal friendship with George W. Bush, his readiness to sacrifice it for the dubious pleasure of the company of Messrs. Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder requires explanation. Three are currently on offer by the political “technologists” in Moscow: An economic one, emphasizing oil interests; an electoral one, referring to public and elite opinion; and a geopolitical one, featuring multipolarity a la Yevgeny Primakov.
OIL AS THE ULTIMATE REASON