Russian Diplomacy

What does Putin’s vigorous foreign policy means for the Middle East and the world?

Vladimir Putin has extended his grip on Russia for another six years after an overwhelming victory in the presidential election. His fourth term as president will extend until 2024, making him the first Kremlin leader to serve two decades in power since Josef Stalin. Putin has spent much of his latest six-year mandate trying to increase Moscow’s influence in the Middle East and surely it’s one of the main factors contributed to the sharp increase in his approval among Russians. Experts call it a winning diplomatic strategy.
It is symbolic that just before announcing the start of campaign Putin made a rather unexpected Middle Eastern tour widely covered by the state media, during which he proclaimed a complete victory over the terrorist organization “Islamic State”. Few believe that the defeat of jihadists was the main goal of the Russian campaign in Syria. Claiming that the defeat of ISIS is a credit to Russia alone would be an exaggeration. However, no one will argue with the fact that Moscow’s intervention was successful.
Firstly, this intervention ensured the survival of Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Secondly, Russia also retained the military base in Humeim and a Mediterranean naval base in Tartus, which gives it ample opportunities to control and monitor the situation in the region, as well as conduct necessary military and political operations. Thirdly, Russia’s intervention has increased its status in the eyes of influential countries in the region as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which had a positive impact on relations with them.
The Soviet Union’s approach to the Middle was shaped by ideology, but Putin is guided exclusively by pragmatism. He is ready to cooperate with everyone in the region – if this is in the interests of Russia (as he understands them). In addition, the US and EU’s lack of a cohesive strategy for the Middle East enabled Putin to emerge as a new leader in the region in just a few years. Israelis, Turks, Palestinians, Egyptians and Jordanians started addressing Kremlin to resolve their regional problems. Russia seeks to conclude new alliances, strengthen its trade ties (including arms trade) and builds up its influence.
During his last term, Putin succeeded in what many Western leaders have failed to do: the ability to build lucrative relations with conflicting, even hostile countries, making multibillion-dollar contracts and projects.
Putin brought Turkey and Iran to a negotiating table in an effort to resolve the Syrian conflict, and the Saudis are cooperating with Moscow to convince the Syrian opposition to unite for peace talks. Russia can discuss anything, openly, with Israel’s Netanyahu, for example, while still maintaining very good relations with Iran and Hezbollah movement. Moreover, Russia was the first country to officially recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel, and East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state and did so in a tactful way that both sides didn’t object. The nuclear power plant in Egypt and Turkey, S-400 missiles supply agreements, OPEC + deal… We can count enough achievements of Putin’s team in this region show evidence of a significant increase in Russia’s influence, especially over his last term.
The Western elite could not develop a coherent and consistent Middle Eastern policy, so many local players see the partnership with Russia as a kind of power balancing and hedging their risks. Of course, thanks to its wealth, military power and alliances Washington remains an indispensable player in the Middle East. But, flexibility and ability to cross over the grudge for the sake of national interests, in a tactical sense, Russia has bypassed the US. As a result, we are witnessing one of the main events of the decade, namely, how the successes in the Middle East allowed Moscow to return to the table of leaders of global geopolitics.
During campaign Putin declared to the world community, Russia’s interests and interests of its allies will now be defended actively and insistently, dialogue on all issues and problems is possible only on equal terms, without preconditions and Moscow is ready to implement all the means including the military for above-mentioned purposes.
The conflict with the West will take a backseat simply because the “West” itself is dissolving increasingly entangled in internal contradictions and structural problems, and all efforts of Western leaders to isolate Russia didn’t give expected results. Only recently he announced that Russia has developed nuclear weapons that can avoid all existing and future systems of defence and plans to bolster its arsenal with nuclear-powered cruise missiles capable of hitting any point in the world.
As for the Middle East, according to most experts, Putin has no illusions about the situation in each of the countries of the Middle East and he is not planning to turn into a blind donordefender of certain regimes, but will take advantage of the opportunity to expand their influence in the Middle East, and also to consolidate their role as the leader of international diplomatic initiatives, which he regards as the main achievement in the return of Russia to the world arena. Consequently, Moscow’s strategy will be to say an active participant in the regional processes by using minimal resources, which implies strengthening its ties not only with traditional allies or partners like Iran or Syria but also with other key players in The Middle East. It is assumed that these measures will allow Russian President Putin to maintain a balance of power and interests in the Middle East and weaken the hegemony of the US and the West in this region.

The Western elite could not develop a coherent and consistent Middle Eastern policy