Putin’s genocidal war on Ukraine may have less to do with empire and far more to do with profits.
There has been considerable commentary about Putin’s war motives, from a belief that Ukraine is little more than an insurgent province of Mother Russia to a fear that Ukraine is becoming a satellite of Western democracies. But those motives miss the fact that Putin rules by allowing oligarchs to enrich themselves and — by extension — himself. And like any criminal, he is going where the money is and there is much money buried in the ground of Ukraine.
While it has historically been considered a rich agricultural region, it is now considered extremely valuable. Putin understands that Ukraine is also very rich in the precious metal lithium. One source reports that for fixed contracts, the annual average lithium price in the United States was $17,000 per ton in 2021, more than double that in 2020.
Published reports reference Ukrainian experts who believe their nation’s Donbas region, now occupied by Russia, holds some 500,000 tons of lithium oxide, a source for refined lithium.
It is this element that is required for a world whose technology is rapidly becoming strategically dependent on lithium to power the batteries required for applications that range from electric cars to smartphones. If you live in the 21st Century, you are now dependent on lithium and Putin’s army is now sitting above a huge supply of that raw material.
As Europe seeks alternatives to Russian natural gas and America channels billions of dollars in military and economic aid to a Ukraine ravaged by Putin’s war, it is important to understand what may be the real motive for this conflict as we check our smartphones for the latest updates. It is what powers that smartphone that may well be the source of Putin’s power play for profits.
Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute.