Russia in the New Middle East

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    Valdai Club expert Zvi Magen talks about Russia's impact on the region in whole.

    The shocks that have lately rocked the Middle East surprised Russia, along with many other international actors, and the new reality, marked by general instability and uncertainty, has left it at a loss for action. However, Russia’s strong desire to maintain its status in the Middle East has driven it to seek political alternatives that will enable it to play a role in shaping the future of the region. The considerations guiding Russia are on the one hand the risk of losing all previous achievements and perhaps even suffer similar processes of civilian rebellion, and on the other hand, the possible benefits of the revolutionary changes, perhaps entailing an enhancement of its regional status. Thus Russia appears determined to promote new political initiatives vis-à-vis all regional elements, including the Israeli-Palestinian track.

    Until the start of recent events, Russia’s status with regard to the collapsing authoritarian regimes was fairly comfortable. These regimes appeared stable, curbed the radical elements, and were good business partners (with Libya alone Russia has an arms deal valued at $4 billion; at the moment it is unclear what will become of it). There were also political partnerships (including anti-Western alliances) created laboriously over many years. Today, Russia’s leaders feel that the revolutions in the Middle East have generated far reaching changes that will continue to affect Russia for decades. One negative ramification is the direct threat to Russia from radical Islam should the latter take control of the Middle East as a result of the revolutions. Similarly, the negative example of Middle Eastern events is liable to recur in Muslim areas of Russia and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Two, there may be damages at the global level should the democratic scenario prevail instead, particularly the dismantling of the anti-Western camp on which Russia had based its international policies. Similarly, a no less serious scenario depicts Russia elbowed aside by competitors (such as China).

    At the same time, there are positive aspects to these events vis-à-vis Russia’s interests, such as the economic angle, especially the steep increases in oil prices, assuring, at least for now, significant earnings for Russia, which is quickly becoming a leading supplier of energy sources. Should Russia also succeed in developing good relations with the new regimes and perhaps even reshaping a bloc of supportive nations, the developments in the Middle East will all in all have been positive from Russia’s perspective.

    Some among Russian elite have become increasingly convinced of America’s decline on the international arena, enhancing dreams of opportunities to promote Russia’s influence in the Middle East and on the international scene at large. Indeed, Russia is busily at work in the region and in suggesting the promotion of new political initiatives, including on the Israeli-Palestinian track.

    Full version of his article was published on valdaiclub.com
     

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