When Vladimir Putin has come to the power and Russia has started to recover its power in the international area by strengthening its economy through its energy resources, its interest over the region has revived. On the basis of this interest, these are some reasons such as increasing its influence on the region, receiving income from the military technology that it sells to the countries in the region, dominating the energy markets in the world and showing that Russia has become again an important actor in the world.
Certain factors such as the heritage of the USSR to Russia for having good relations with the Middle East, the military technologies that Russia sells to the region, the Israelis who are ex-Soviet citizens and migrated to Israel after the dissolution of the USSR, the Kremlin’s good contact with the leaders of the region and the Kremlin’s support for them, the opposition of the Kremlin to the external interventions under the mask of “democratization”, its membership in the Organization of the Islam Conference at least in the supervisory status enable that Moscow has good contacts with the countries in the region and raise in general its influence on the region.
In relation with the recent developments in the Middle East, the Russian Federation generally keeps silent and follows the “wait and see” policy. In fact, the destabilization of the Middle East serves to Russia in short term because the upheavals in the Middle East cause the increase at the oil prices. As the economy of Russia which is one of the countries having and exporting the most energy resources depends on the income from oil and gas, the increase at the price of the energy resources will undoubtedly serve to Moscow. Prior to the 2012 presidential elections, the increase at the treasure of Russia and the expense of all these money for social reforms by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will increase the admiration of the public for Putin. The Russian authorities had succeeded before to turn the similar crises into their favor. As a result of the military intervention of the US into Iraq, the oil prices had increased and Russia invigorated its economy, paid off its all domestic and foreign debts and reflected this development to its foreign policy as well.
Another importance of the destabilization in the Middle East for Russia is the possibility of increasing its sale of military technologies to the Middle Eastern countries (in case of no sanction). After the energy resources, the second important source of income for Russia is the military technologies. It is highly probable that the ancient or new leaders in power start a new and maybe even a bigger armament process particularly when the stability is ensured after a period of instability.
The civil wars in the Middle East may give the change of being a mediator to Russia that is somehow in contact with all the parties in the region, contrary to the Western states, and this situation may increase the political influence of Moscow on the region. Taking into consideration all these, it can be claimed that it is the instability which serves more to Russia than the peace in the Middle East, which depends on a certain condition. This condition is that this instability does not necessitate (or bring about) a foreign intervention. Otherwise, like it happened in the example of Iraq, such instabilities may cause serious harms to Moscow in long term. After the military intervention of the US to Iraq, Moscow became totally ineffective in Iraq which was one of its most important partners in the Middle East, the tenders that the Russian companies had gained before the war were cancelled, and Iraq became incapable of paying its debt to Russia. Besides all these, the US has got strengthened in the region, but Russia had to start from scratch to establishing contacts with the new Iraqi government. Therefore, the Russian authorities certainly oppose to any external military intervention to the region and always speak out this attitude.
On the other hand, the Russian authorities abstain from supporting the current parties in power or criticizing the leaders of the opposition groups. The reason of this is that Moscow follows the policy of the “wait and see” and avoid from harming the current contacts as a precaution for any possibility (the current leaders’ staying in power or the accession of new leaders to the power). It is possible to predict that Russia continue to adopt the same attitude during the coming period.
»» Dr. İlyas Kamalov ORSAM Eurasian Advisor