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Putin's air strikes in Syria stir up oil prices

Boone Pickens: Goldman way off on $20 oil

Vladimir Putin's military campaign in Syria is stirring up trouble in the Middle East -- and jacking up oil prices in the process.

T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oil man, believes that's exactly what Putin was hoping for.

"He wants a higher price for oil," Pickens told CNNMoney's Cristina Alesci. "A lack of leadership in the United States has allowed Putin to walk into the Middle East and be right there."

Energy-reliant Russia has been slammed by the crash in world oil prices. The Russian economy is in recession and the ruble has collapsed against the dollar.

But last week oil climbed back above $50 a barrel for the first time since July -- in part due to unease created Moscow's first military campaign in the Middle East in decades.

"This escalation certainly increases uncertainty in the oil-rich Middle East, thus boosting oil prices. If they start falling again, Putin is perfectly positioned to stir things up in the region," Ed Yardeni, president of investment advisory Yardeni Research, wrote in a note to clients.

That's not good news for American drivers. The average gallon of gasoline is selling for $2.314 on Monday, up from $2.29 a week ago, according to AAA.