The situation in Ukraine sent stocks lower earlier this morning as Russia ordered a convoy of aid trucks to cross the border into eastern Ukraine, apparently without Ukraine's permission. NATO condemned the border crossing, claiming it would "only deepen the crisis in the region."
While the actions and rhetoric heat up, don't be surprised if ultimately this battle isn't fought with guns and airstrikes. The next cold war is here but it’s not about weapons says Dan Dicker, President of MercBlock. “This latest cold war that I see coming is very much based upon the control of energy resources, particularly in Russia which is by far the largest energy producer in Asia, as well as the United States which is becoming the largest energy producer here in the west.”
It may seem counterintuitive given the way Putin’s Russia has locked horns with Ukraine with real weapons and not merely the threat of shutting down their pipelines (though of course he’s done that too). Still, Dicker believes the long game is about no less than bringing many of the nations that once made up the Soviet Union back into Russia’s favor and away from western influence.
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“I would think he’s frightened to a certain degree of the expanse,” Dicker says. “But then again there is this desire to extend as far west as you can particularly because he controls the natural gas supplies for virtually everyone in the old SSR as well as many on the nations just west of that. Latvia 100%, Poland 100%, Romania 100% - many of the other baltic states 100% of the gas resources.”
So what is the west to do? Very little Dicker says calling sanctions “ a very, very weak arrow in a very small quiver of things you can do.”
This winter will be the true test where the rest of the world could see exactly what Putin may or may not be up to. “I think he’s waiting for the first cold snap this winter to really put the stick down where it matters,” Dicker posits, “and that is inside the economies of eastern Europe and also with regular people who he can literally freeze out of their homes.”
He notes that Putin has done it before (in 2006 and 2009) with a lot of success. In short, he’s winning. “In the end it’s very hard to maintain governments that are western leaning when somebody else controls pipeline into your economy,” Dicker argues. “And I think over the long haul he’ll be very successful at extending his reach across borders - not just Ukraine but [Poland] in particular must be frightened to death.”
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