Beyond history and tradition, Russian ambition to return to the Middle East can be explained by the regions proximity to Russias borders. However, Turkeys pivot toward Russia has deeper causes and has been longer in the making than the S-400 episode or the reemergence of Russia as a major regional actor through its military intervention in Syria. See Algeria Pushing Cut in Vineyards, New York Times, November 14, 1971. 5 World Bank, World Integrated Trade Solution database, Elsewhere, the Russian presence in the region during that period manifested itself mostly in the pursuit of market opportunities for its struggling arms industry, as well as a largely inconsequential diplomatic engagement intended to show that Russia was still interested in maintaining ties to the region. Upon returning from his May 2018 visit to Moscow, Netanyahu announced that he had convinced Putin not to sell the system and its weapons to the Assad regime. We may have seen the same logic at work as the Bush administration wittingly or unwittingly encouraged the volatile Georgian president to provoke Russia, which apparently was waiting to take advantage of just such a provocation. Beyond that, the United States and its allies 2011 military intervention in Libya, which resulted in the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime, deprived Russia of a chance to build its relationship with a former Soviet-era client it had been courting, albeit with limited success at best, since Putins visit there in 2008.117, Gaining a foothold in Libya and ultimately a say in any future settlement in that country could serve as a springboard to build up Russian influence in North Africa and the Mediterranean and position Russia as even more of a thorn in the side of the United States and its postCold War near-monopoly on naval activities in the Mediterranean. Former U.S. officials recalled Soviet threats to intervene in and the risks of U.S.-Soviet confrontations in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars.2, Russian policy in the Middle East has had multiple and diverse drivers.

But The New York Times said the book "often reads like a polemic rather than a work of history." It was to be opposed, as it was in the nineteenth century, when the United Kingdom and France fought Russia in Crimea; competed against, as the United States and its allies sought to do throughout the Cold War; but not questioned as an aberration. 86 Jay Solomon, U.S. It projected the image of Russian diplomacy preventing the United States from launching punishing strikes at the Syrian government out of retribution for the Assad regimes use of chemical weapons against the opposition and civilians. Despite repeated threats to impose sanctions on Turkey for the S-400 deal, the Trump administration struggled to come up with an adequate response, and its reaction to the delivery of the system to Turkey has been muteda sign of the U.S. equities at stake in Turkey, including U.S. access to the Incirlik Air Base, and desire to avoid further damage to NATO cohesion or aggravate the split with Turkey.71. The 1991 defeat of Saddam Husseins Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition disrupted the long-standing Russian relationship with Iraq.

The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East. Their shared opposition to perceived U.S. hegemony in the Middle East was supplemented by Irans geopolitical designs to expand its influence in the Levant, support for the Alawite Assad regime, and irreconcilable opposition to the existence of Israel. The Cold War had a potent overriding logic of its own for both sides, which generally took precedence over all other considerations, whether solicitude for the interests of countries and peoples directly affected by the conflict, or even acknowledgment of the realities on the ground where these contradicted fixed ideological imperatives. Moscows indifferent stance toward Algerian domestic developments may seem lacking true commitment to partnership and may have disappointed Bouteflikas supporters. 98 Marianna Belenkaya, How Did Lavrov Do on His Gulf Tour?, Al-Monitor, March 7, 2019,; and Nikolay Kozhanov and Leonid Issaev, Russian Influence in the Gulf Has Its Limits, Al Jazeera, April 5, 2019, By contrast, Russia does not appear to be indispensable. In fact, not only at the time were the great powers the Worlds major oil producers (Khalidi, 2009), but also the war made them increasingly aware of the strategic role oil had acquired in warfare. Putin has pursued a strategic partnership with Iran.21 Putin has partnered with Iran in Syria to save the Assad regime. Several Middle Eastern states have also expressed interest in investing in the Russian economy. The July 2016 attempted coup against Erdoan was a pivotal moment for Turkish domestic politics, triggering a massive purge of the countrys civil society, military, government employees, and media.61 The coup and the sweeping purge of Erdoans opponents that followed prompted a mix of puzzlement, hesitation, and criticism directed at Erdoan from Turkeys European allies and the United States.62 The one notable exception to this reaction was Putin. 7 (January 1, 1970),; Turkey and the Chechens, BBC, March 16, 2001,; and Gonul Tol, Why Is Turkey Silent on Russias Cooperation With the Syrian Kurds? War on the Rocks, December 19, 2017, 1 See: Philip Gordon, Putin Is Making a Mistake in Syria and Russia Will Pay the Price, Washington Post, September 28, 2016,; Amanda Taub, The Russians Have Made a Serious Mistake: How Putins Syria Gambit Will Backfire, Vox, October 1, 2015,; Nicu Popescu and Stanislav Secrieru, Russias Return to the Middle East: Building Sandcastles? Chaillot Paper No. Russia also has been an important weapons supplier, and it built the Bushehr nuclear power plant despite strong U.S. pressure to cancel the project.35. Their external backers received a clear message that they would no longer be able to meddle in Syrian affairs at will, and would have to take Russias position and preferences into account.

Long one of the most controversial and significant issues of the 20th century, ProfessorLthi removes the "great power" lense and seeks to provide the perspective of those parties directly involved, Israel and the Arab states. Anyway, in the aftermath of the WWII, United States and Soviet Union were already militarily and diplomatically engaged in the region, respectively in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Iranian Azerbaijan and Kurdistan. 3,; and Nick Danforth, A Short History of Turkish Threats to Invade Syria, Foreign Policy, July 31, 2015, The Saudi kings visit was a milestone in another area critically important for both countries: coordination of their activities in the world oil market.89 Because previous attempts by the two oil giants to coordinate their activities had failed, the agreement initially reached in 2016 was first met with skepticism.90 The agreement was reaffirmed during King Salmans visit to Moscow and, despite repeated doubts about its prospects, subsequently extended on several occasions with plans under way to establish a long-term OPEC+ alliance notwithstanding the fact that Russia has not reduced its oil output except for a brief period in 2019a cut that was due to temporary technical problems.91 Despite that, the appearance of cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia in the oil market prompted criticism from Iran, whose OPEC representative complained in 2018 that the two were holding the oil market hostage and taking advantage of Iran when it was being pressured by the United States.92.

As the conflict escalated into a full-fledged civil war, the United States provided political, diplomatic, and material support for the anti-Assad forces. Saudi King Salmans 2017 visit to Moscow was a historic first, and the two energy superpowers have pledged to coordinate their oil export policies, but much like the Israelis, the Saudis are likely to be disappointed in their hope that better relations with Russia could lead it to abandon its partnership with Iran. Moscow and Tel Aviv share an interest in restoring a degree of stability to Syria and containing Iranian influence there. Notwithstanding the skill and persistence displayed by Russian diplomats and leadership in pursuing their goal of restoring Russia to a prominent position in the Middle East, and the risk inherent in any use of military force in the region, Russias return to the region has been facilitated in large measure by the perception that the United States is trying to disengage from the region. Secondly, I will describe some significant historical events, in order to show how the Cold War logic affected the area and how it shaped the regions political reality, both from a regional and a domestic point of view. Netanyahu refers to Iran as the mortal enemy of the Jewish people and the state of Israel, and talks about the ruling regime in Tehran as the second coming of Hitlers Third Reich. A recent sore point related to Saudi Arabias rivalry with Iran was Russias support for Syrias Bashar al-Assad and the assistance Russia was providing (alongside Iran) to his government in the Syrian civil war, in which Saudi Arabia had emerged as a major backer of the opposition.83 Last, but not least, the relationship between Moscow and Riyadh apparently had suffered from their repeated failures to coordinate their production strategies prior to 2015.84, Decisionmaking in both Moscow and Riyadh is opaque, but two developments with far-reaching consequences likely propelled Russia and Saudi Arabia toward a rapprochement. 119 Federica Faini Fasanotti, Russia and Libya: A Brief History of an On-Again-Off-Again Relationship; and Yuri Barmin, Russia in Libya: From Authoritarian Stability to Consensus Settlement, Al-Sharq Forum, August 3, 2017, U.S. disengagement from the Middle East has also created multiple opportunities for Russia to reach out to U.S. partners seeking reassurance in a time of uncertaintyin the Levant, in the Persian Gulf, and in North Africa. Listening to voices in Washington and in Moscow after the standoff in Georgia, or to that of Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking immediately after a visit to Tbilisi in September 2008 about Russian actions as an "affront to civilized standards," it almost sounded as if the Cold War had never ended. 108 Lizzie Dearden, ISIS Plane Attack: Egypt Admits Terrorists Downed Russian Metrojet Flight From Sharm el-Sheikh for First Time, Independent, February 24, 2016, For example, the American-Iranian confrontation in the postCold War era resembled nothing so much as a regional version of the Cold War, with an exaggerated emphasis on terrorism taking the place of "international communism" as a bogey, and a "global war on terror" targeting an "axis of evil" standing in for a cold war against an "evil empire.". Despite the current U.S. preoccupation with competition among great powers, much if not most of the national security community in the United States does not consider Russia a true great power.133 It is viewed at best as a has-been great power, which is in a state of long-term, irreversible decline. Criticized in the West for his human rights abuses, Sisi found in Putin a convenient partner to help shore up his domestic standing and leverage vis--vis Washington. For Russia, the ability to end the conflict in Syria and put the war-torn country on the path of reconciliation and reconstruction would be the ultimate confirmation of its return to the greater Middle East and unprecedented enhancement of its status as a major power. So while some elements of American and Russian policy justifications have remained the same, others have clearly changed. It is too early to say whether this dynamic will continue now that a new wariness has entered American-Russian relations. 54 Brian Hughes, How the Obama-Vladimir Putin Relationship Died, Washington Examiner, July 30, 2014,; and Michael Crowley, Did Obama Get Erdogan Wrong? POLITICO, July 16, 2016, Overall, it was a major diplomatic coup for Russia. The record of Turkish-Syrian relations is complicated, and often tumultuous.56 It includes the legacy of an uneasy relationship between a former empire and its colony, which share a 500-mile border and have competing territorial claims; the legacy of the Cold War, when Syria was aligned with the Soviet Union, and Turkey was the pillar of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations (NATOs) Southern flank; and the harboring in Syria of the Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah calan, whom the Turkish government has accused of masterminding a terrorist campaign inside Turkey.57 Turkeys leaders welcomed the Arab Spring for their own set of geopolitical, religious, philosophical, and internal political reasons, but they initially urged Assad to exercise restraint in his efforts to quell the civil unrest in Syria.58 Assads uncompromising and increasing brutality in dealing with the opposition left little doubt about his unconditional rejection of that advice, and Turkey moved to the column of Assads adversaries and supporters of his opposition, while Russia remained a staunch ally and supporter of his regime. On November 24, 2015, a Turkish F-16 plane shot down a Russian Su-24 aircraft in what Ankara claimed (and Moscow vehemently denied) was Turkish airspace.59 The Russians insisted that their plane had been shot down over Syria. In fact, Russia appears to have a strong interest in limiting Iranian influence in Syria. To truly secure a foothold in North Africa, it will need to commit resources for ensuring stability and security, as well as for development at a time when the region is experiencing not only the effects of the United States pulling back, but also the entry of China with its vast financial and technological resources, as well as ambitions to carve out a larger role beyond the Asia Pacific region. But the option of letting Iran have a free hand at pursuing its objectives in Syria risks jeopardizing the Kremlins accomplishments in Syria and in the broader Middle East. Assads fall would have been a victory for the United States and a coalition of U.S.-supported Syrian opposition groups. Another instance of the superpowers influence over regional politics in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A series of Cold Wars ebbed and flowed as the three world regions underwent structural changes that weakened or even severed their links to the global ideological clash, leaving the superpower Cold War as the only major conflict that remained by the 1980s. A related belief stated that a protracted military campaign far from the Russian bordera war of choice rather than necessitywould risk a domestic political backlash. The Jewish state rose out of the ashes of the war, and Netanyahu has positioned himself as Israels protector against the threat from Iran, the state that seventy-three years after the Holocaust, he told Putin, wants to destroy Israel. 2 William B. Quandt, Soviet Policy in the October Middle East War-I, International Affairs 53, no. 2022 The Wilson Center. Despite periodic high-level visits, throughout much of the postCold War era relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the leading GCC state, were lukewarm.82 There were several key reasons for this tepid relationship. Until that point, it had been more or less a marginal actor in the regions affairs. Accordingly, the administration condemned the Assad regimes actions to suppress the protests. As with many other aspects of developments in the Middle East, the 2011 Arab Spring marked a major inflection point in relations between Russia and Egypt. This attitude manifested itself particularly following Trumps October 2019 decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria and in effect pave the way for Turkeys incursion into the region, which endangered U.S.-aligned Kurdish-led militias. How.

Russia and Turkey have followed similar domestic political trajectories. Still, with influential U.S. voices arguing for reducing the U.S. commitment to the Middle East, good relations with Russia provide an additional, even if not very reliable, hedge against uncertainty. After its military deployment to Syria, Russia emerged as an indispensable power broker, not just in Syria but more broadly in the Middle East. The prospect of military defeat and collapse of the Syrian government presented Russian officials with multiple highly undesirable consequences. In this instance, too, the two have strong incentives to manage their relations constructively and avoid possible tensions. The end of the Cold War and the opening of the Russian economy had a profound impact on Russian-Turkish relations. Rather, the region was a uniquely important arena for competition, where U.S. dominance could be challenged once Russia gained the necessary resources to do so. Things looked quite different from the vantage point of Beirut than they appeared from either Moscow or Washington, or than they did in most of the scholarship on the Cold War. Russian air strikes were carried out with little, if any regard for civilian casualties.13.

Lorenz M. Lthi offers a radically different account, restoring agency to regional powers in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and revealing how regional and national developments shaped the course of the global Cold War. The Middle East held little attraction for the cash-strapped Russian state. The impact of these developments did not take long to manifest in a major improvement in Russia-Saudi relations. The military intervention in the Syrian civil war was only the first phase of Russias more expansive move into the Middle East, one whose consequences would reach well beyond Syria. The Russian government, for its part, condemned the protests as an illegitimate, foreign-inspired attempt at regime change; branded the opposition as terrorists; endorsed the actions of the Assad regime to suppress them; and also provided material support for Assad to do so. As argued below, in the discussion of Russias relations with Iran, notwithstanding the confluence of their interests in supporting the Assad regime, their longer-term interests diverge. Although Russia and Middle Eastern producers are competitors, they are increasingly having to coordinate their activities as their previously dominant positions as energy superpowers are being challenged by the entry of new sources of supply and technologies. Putin and Egypts President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Sochi, October 17, 2018 (Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images). The ability to talk to all parties is the capital that Russian leaders appear to value the most and frequently try to play up.

However unsettled they may have been by the imagery of the Arab Spring and the fall of Mubarak, Russian leaders took a pragmatic stance with regard to his successor Mohamed Morsi, even though the Russian government had designated Morsis Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and had banned it in Russia since 2003.101 Morsi traveled to Russia and met with Putin in April 2013, but the visit was apparently largely symbolic, with little practical effect for bilateral relations.102. Sign up to receive emails from Carnegies Russia and Eurasia Program! But there is more. At various times in history, Russian armed forces fought land battles against Persian, Turkish, British, and French armies, and confronted their navies in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The crisis in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 swept aside all interest in a cooperative relationship on both sides, with the exception of a handful of vitally important issues. 146, July 2018,; and William E. Pomeranz, Imperial Overreach: How Putins Move Into Syria Could Bring His Government Down, Reuters, September 28, 2015, Soviet-Algerian relations began with Soviet support for Algeria during its War of Independence from France in the 1950s and early 1960s.122 Soviet weapons deliveries and security assistance after the end of the War of Independence continued and helped solidify the relationship that lasted throughout the Cold War, even though Algeria was never fully a Soviet satellite.123 By one estimate, from 1962 to 1989 Algeria acquired $11 billion worth of Soviet arms, of which a large share was presumably financed by Soviet loans or other favorable arrangements.124. 3, Russia is apparently unwilling and unable to prevail on a key partner in the region to desist from disruptive policies threatening Israel, with which Russia wants to maintain good relations. Russian engagement in Syria has evolved over a period of several years. 122 The Algerian Revolution and the Communist Bloc, Wilson Center, It worked as a distraction, diverting attention from domestic problems, which could otherwise be earlier observed and solved. Largely absent from the Middle East for the better part of the previous two decades, Russia intervened to save Bashar al-Assads regime and reasserted itself as a major player in the regions power politics. The striking feature of that commentary has been that hardly any of it offered a realistic view of U.S. interests at stake and the likely impact of the decision on U.S. interests. Like the Levant and the Persian Gulf, North Africa has seen Russian efforts to rebuild ties with some of its former clients, capitalizing on legacy relationships, the turmoil that swept the region in the wake of the Arab Spring, and the power vacuum resulting from disengagement or the lack of interest by the United States and its allies. Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. 101 Gabriela Baczynska, Russia May Ease Muslim Brotherhood Ban to Boost Egypt Ties, Reuters, December 18, 2012, 26 Izvestia: Rossia ne vedet peregovory o postavkah Sirii S-300 [News: Russia is Not Conducting the Negotiations About the Deliveries of S-300 to Syria], TASS, May 10, 2018, The activities of Middle Eastern oil andincreasinglygas producers have direct bearing on Russian economic well-being and political stability. 27 Kyle Mizokami, Syria Accidentally Shot Down a Russian Plane. In the 1990s and early 2000s, both countries implemented major domestic reforms, each pursuing its own path toward closer relations with Europe. The Kremlin is apparently short of the diplomatic leverage with regard to Iran, and possibly even Assad, that would be necessary to persuade one or both to limit Iranian influence in Syria. In response for this alleged Israeli violationwhich Israeli authorities strenuously denied, and which no independent expert found credibleRussia delivered twenty-four S-300s to Syria in October 2018.28, The Il-20M episode was the worst crisis in Russian-Israeli relations since the two countries restored diplomatic relations. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. We're here to answer any questions you have about our services. Moscows post-2015 active presence marked the resumption of centuries-old Russian involvement in the regions affairs.

It was adopted both in terms of appeal made to potential allies and in terms of economic, political and social models they offered to them (Halliday in Sayigh and Shlaim, 1997). Despite Russias diplomatic engagement and attempts to energize economic ties with its newfound partners in the Persian Gulf, their relationships are best described as having considerable breadth but little depth.

Taken together, these two developments should be seen as opening for a major course correction for U.S. policy guided by a more modest, but ultimately more realistic and productive set of objectives. Considering the transactional nature of Russias key relationships in North Africa, its limited resources, reluctance (to date) to take on significant risks, and inability to offer its regional partners what they need, its current efforts may not be sufficient. An unwritten but widespread belief held that the combined trauma of the 1980s Soviet campaign in Afghanistan and the 1990s war in Chechnya would be a powerful psychological and political barrier to another military intervention that could lead to many Russian casualties and an endless entanglement in a conflict similar to those in Iraq and Afghanistan, from which the United States was having difficulty extricating itself.