Mikhail Plisyuk, Director of the Institute of International Integration Studies, Moscow, in a recent article, has explained Russia’s position towards the Middle East.
Plisyuk said: “Russia in recent months has shown a rediscovered interest in Middle East affairs. It now wants to have a say on Syria, Iran, Israel and the Arab world in general, issues that Russia sees as a direct threat to the country. The Middle East lies on its very doorstep.
“Syria has been a contentious issue of debate for the past few weeks, with Moscow insisting that dialogue should be the method of intervention. Russia vetoed the UN Security Council resolution calling on President Assad to step down. Moscow is clearly influenced by what happened in Libya, with a real concern for civilian casualties caused by any international action.
“Professor Vitaly Naumkin, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Science, has explained: “Russia feels that it was cheated by its international partners. The no-fly zone mandate in Libya was transformed into direct military intervention. This should not be repeated in Syria.” Arming the opposition would only serve to increase the killing. There was now the threat of civil war. Reforms had to be given a chance. The majority of the Syrian population did not want Al Assad to stand down. External armed forces should not intervene.
“Patrick Seale, a renowned commentator and author of several books on Middle East affairs, writing in Gulf News, argued that Russia feels that its own domestic stability is linked to developments in the Arab world, given that 20 million Muslims live in the Northern Caucasus. If the rise of Islamist parties turn out to be extreme, he argues, “they risk inflaming Muslims in Russia itself and in Central Asia.”
“Moscow’s first reaction to the Arab revolutions has tended to be wary, no doubt because it suffered the assaults of the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, and so forth. Yet it is now fully aware of the need to build relations with the new forces in the Arab world,” he said.
“Presidential candidate, Vladimir Putin has claimed to know how to handle Middle East affairs, seeking closer ties in his previous two terms in office. This is likely to continue with his likely return following the upcoming elections later this week.
“Mr Seale also argued that there is an appeal for a greater role for the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in establishing a new multilateral mechanism for regional security: “To halt the killing in Syria or to ward off a US-Israeli war against Iran, would Russia sponsor a mediation process in conjunction with its Brics partners? Would it seek to revive the moribund Arab-Israeli peace process by sponsoring an international conference in Moscow? These questions remained unanswered.
“Russia’s ambition to play a greater role in international affairs is clear. But can it deliver?”
Mikhail Plisyuk is a Director of the Institute of International Integration Studies, Moscow
SOURCE Russia Insights www.russia-insights.com