"You know, I am looking and analyzing everything that was happening there and what is happening there now. I think ISIL [Islamic State or Daesh, outlawed in Russia] is a secondary thing now," Putin said at his annual press conference.
The Russian leader reminded of the vacuum that was created after the war in Iraq.
"Then elements emerged related to the oil trade. And this situation has been unfolding for years. A business was established there, smuggling on huge, industrial scale. Then in order to protect this smuggling and illegal export, military force is needed. It is very easy to use the Islamic factor, attract cannon fodder there under Islamic slogans, who are only playing a role linked to economic interests," Putin explained.
Saudi Arabia announced this week it was building an Islamic coalition, allegedly to fight "terrorists" across the Middle East and Asia.
"It is very easy to use the Islamic factor, attract cannon fodder there under Islamic slogans, who are only playing a role linked to economic interests," Putin said.
Islamic State, which is outlawed in Russia and other many countries, controls large swaths of land in oil-rich Syria, Iraq and Libya. It earns millions of dollars selling smuggled crude on the black market, according to Russian and US estimates.
Illegal IS oil exports have been making their way to Turkey, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier this month.
In November, Putin told French President Francois Hollande that huge volumes of Syrian oil were smuggled to Turkey, with the implicit support of Ankara. Washington estimates that IS militants control some 80 percent of Syria’s oil and gas fields.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly denied profiting from Islamic State's oil trafficking and vowed to resign if evidence emerged that his family was implicated in the Daesh oil business.