Ahmed Moustafa: Russian Stakeholders who reshape the Foreign Policy in Middle East



My deep tributes to Dr. Amr Eldeeb (lecturer at Nizhny Novgorod University and the Arabic Editor in Chef of Realist Site) for publishing my report this in Arabic according to the presentation I did in English one week before at my university HSE concerning “the stakeholders who reshape Russia Foreign Policy”

تحياتي الحارة للدكتور عمرو الديب ، محاضر في جامعة نيجني نوفغورود والمحرر العربي في موقع “رياليست” ، لنشر تقريري باللغة العربية على الرابط اعلاه، وفقًا للعرض الذي قدمته باللغة الإنجليزية قبل أسبوع في الجامعة العليا للاقتصاد بشأن “أصحاب المصلحة الذين يشكلون سياسة روسيا الخارجية”


Russian Stakeholders who reshape the Foreign Policy in Middle East


The Russian role was at the heart of the calculations in favor of the Assad regime in Syria, prompting discussions about ending this conflict and how to deal with the growing aspirations of Russians in the region. Since the beginning of the Russian military campaign in Syria, the features of this role in the Middle East have begun to take shape. While some analysts believe this role will make Russia key to resolving many conflicts in the region, others argue that, on the contrary, Russia’s entry into the region’s conflicts with such momentum will exacerbate and complicate these conflicts and make them intractable.
Some Gulf States believe that Russia’s role in the Middle East will increase in the coming years. Russia’s ambition to become a mediator for resolving the Syrian and Libyan conflict with the potential to play a role in resolving the Yemeni-Palestinian crisis has made these countries willing to communicate with Moscow pragmatically for any predictable partner in Russia. The Gulf approach to Moscow was evident in King Salman’s historic visit to Russia, raising questions about whether the two countries turned the page of hostility in the Cold War. This trend is also evident in the increase in arms deals between the Gulf and Russia.
Thus, we will discuss the Russian Foreign Policy this via three key stakeholders “Strategy, Intelligence and Orthodox Church”

I. Strategy role in Russian Foreign Policy

Russia’s Strategic Axis in the Middle East:-
The idea began in a multi-polar world since Yevgeny Primakov was Russian Foreign Minister in the mid-1990s, who took this initiative in cooperation and laying the cornerstone of the BRICS system with China and India and then extending it to Brazil and South Africa, then It was followed 10 years later by the Group of 20, “where through other partners within the Group we can reshape a strategic vision of the world in the future” said Primakov.
Why the Middle East:
As Middle East is considered a radical Islamic ideological hotbed, the Middle East continues to pose a threat to Russia and its allies, but at the same time, Russia is strengthening its role of its responsible global power, which helps in solving common security issues.
The most important results achieved by Russia in the Middle East:
• Free a large part of Syria from the hands of the Islamic State with the direct participation of Russia and create the necessary conditions to advance the peace process and rebuild Syria.
• Agreements on areas of de-escalation, prevention of clashes between Russia and the United States in Syria, and progress in the peace process in Astana.
• Knowing that the majority is ready to end the Syrian crisis, Russia has established 4 de-escalation zones in cooperation with guarantors Iran and Turkey, as well as the development of dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition and tried to deliver aid to areas of reducing tension, and trying to eliminate Jabhat al-Nusra, but the international coalition is not fighting to exploit Once again, in the Security Council a resolution was adopted to combat terrorism, but the fact is that there is no resolution from the West towards victory.
• Russia is trying hard to normalize relations with Turkey through intimidation and induction over the past two years.
• Develop relations with Saudi Arabia and coordinate interaction in oil markets, especially after recent cooperation with OPEC.
• Maintaining the status quo regarding the Iranian nuclear program.
Challenges and threats against Russia’s strategy:
• A temporary stagnation of the peace process as a result of contradictions within Syria and among external actors (differences between Russia and the United States, Turkey’s position on the Kurdish issue, the issue of Iran’s influence in the region).
• The continuing terrorist threat, owing to the return of ISIS fighters to Russia and former Soviet countries, and increased underground terrorist activity in the North Caucasus and Central Asia.
• Some in the West consider terrorism as the result of dictatorship, in doing so, the West seeks regime change in the Middle East, but the most important question is whether the West is serious about fighting terrorism?
• The best reconciliation between the sects, especially the Sunnis and Shiites and this works a lot, especially between Saudi Arabia and Iran and start a constructive dialogue in the interest of Syria and other countries, but the problem lies in the Western influence on the Gulf States, as well as Russia does not trust in the visions of America to contradict its goals In “Is the elimination of terrorism its current priority or the departure of Bashar al-Assad.”
• As well as expansion at the expense of the Russian border through Ukraine, Russia has proposed Astana negotiations began almost two years ago, and after the stagnation of the Geneva talks it supports dialogue, but the opposition abroad is trying to thwart the negotiations and set preconditions, but Russia is counting on the Syrian-Syrian dialogue, as well The Constitutional Committee, which will include a broad spectrum of opposition, especially opposition inside, because the opposition abroad does not fully represent the heart of the Syrian opposition, and of course Russia discusses the names of guests with the guarantor countries “ Iran and Turkey ” and this is not a beating for Geneva, but correct the opposition delegation to become objective and more diverse.
• Of course, the issue of training terrorists in some US bases in Syria is unacceptable, and undermines the negotiations and the coming of Russia to rectify the status of the international coalition, and currently we have a consultation center in Amman Jordan because the constitutional process must have momentum, and unfortunately there are external players playing on a sectarian basis.
• The situation in Afghanistan is exacerbated by the strengthening of ISIS.
• Of course, the deteriorating situation in Yemen also affects negatively.
• The military attempts from the West, without coordination with Russia, to solve the crisis in Libya is also a source of concern for Russia because it widens the gap of discord and negatively affects the idea of confronting terrorism.
• Also threatening the United States withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Opportunities for Russia:
• Defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria and liberating more than 90% of Syrian territory.
• Russia’s leading role in the Syrian settlement, the organization of the Syrian People’s Dialogue Conference and the promotion of the Geneva process.
• Rebuilding Syria in cooperation with leading international organizations and associations, as well as with the European Union, China and Iran.
• Developing military, technical, commercial and economic cooperation with Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries such as the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar.
• Trying to resolve the Qatari crisis and the boycott countries and trying to reconcile Iran and Saudi Arabia.
• Russia is also trying to strengthen its relations with the Maghreb countries and also with Sudan.
• Develop dialogue with Iran and maintain the status quo regarding its nuclear program.
Priority tasks of Russian foreign policy in the Middle East:
• Strengthen Syria’s positions, taking into account the transition from military operation to post-conflict reconstruction of the country.
• Preventing military clashes in the region, promoting the concept of a regional security system, and maintaining and strengthening friendly relations with all countries in the region.
• Prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region.
• Prevent the region from becoming a base for international terrorism and counter the export of terrorism and extremist Islamism to the North Caucasus and Central Asia.

Russia and the Palestinian cause:
Russia declared that East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that any breach of this would harm the stability and the peace process in the Middle East, and would aggravate the situation in the whole region, thus Russia affirmed that any decision must be in conformity with international legitimacy and the resolutions adopted with the Security Council, while not violating international law, because the Palestinians have legitimate and undeniable rights.

Russia and Yemen:
Saleh’s death has escalated the situation in Yemen, and Russia always calls on all parties to participate in a comprehensive national dialogue because whatever happens in Yemen, there is no way other than Yemeni-Yemeni negotiations. Russia hopes that the UN envoy will make logical choices and will not take sides at the expense of the other as long as there are opportunities for a political solution, and if there is an Iranian-Gulf dialogue, we must sit down and hear each other.

Egyptian-Russian relations:
Egypt is a strategic partner with Russia in the region and also Egypt is part of the Hmeimim Group. The two sides have strategic, cultural and commercial ties, especially the nuclear project in Dabaa, as well as the Russian Free Trade Zone in the new Suez Canal axis and arms deals that have taken place since 2014, whereas Russia supports Egypt’s determination to eradicate terrorism, and the two sides have contacts at the level of military experts. The transfer of Russian military personnel to Egypt is currently out of the question. There is an open air agreement between Egypt and Russia now, as well as the fast factions groups existed, and the speed of the use of airports in Egypt and Syria in the war on terrorism and all this is possible.
“All of the above information is contained in the 2018 Russia-Middle East Strategy Report as well as statements by Russian President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov.”

II. Russian Intelligence’s role in Foreign Policy:-
Today, Russia plays a key role in the conflict in the Middle East and its main window is Syria, which is Russia’s main pillar of survival in the region’s warm waters.
Syria, for its part, believes that it has allies who have contributed to defending it and assisting it in difficult circumstances, the closest of which is Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah. But for Damascus, Russia remains the strongest and oldest ally in years, but what about the allies’ relationship with Syria’s biggest ally and between Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russia?
The dialectic of the relationship between Hezbollah and Russia:
With the emergence of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the 1980s, the party’s political and ideological view of the Soviet Union was characterized by utter hostility by considering “Communism” as a dangerous doctrine to the Islamic society and clashing with their religion and creed that was the basis of their political and military organization.
The party, which grew up in Lebanon, was the first clash with the Soviet Union through the intellectual and military clash between it and the Lebanese left, especially the Lebanese Communists, where the party slipped into extremist actions against the Lebanese, and some of its elements in the era of former Secretary-General Subhi Tufayli For many communists and leftists, the tense relationship between the two sides turned to a Soviet response by supporting Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, which was supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Iranian leadership’s stance on communism was so hostile that its influence reached Lebanon through the party’s supporters calling the Soviet Union the “Little Satan” because it sought to destroy the Islamic community and nation according to the party’s ideological vision.
But with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Russia as the legal heir of the Union at the international level, these international changes and the rise of Russia instead of the Soviet Union imposed a vision and ideological revision of the party itself to many countries, most notably Russia over the years, especially after the arrival of a new party leadership and Syed/ Hassan Nasrallah took over the General Secretariat, the party removed from its political slogans its hatred and hostility to the Russians, and opened a new page of bilateral relations between the political organization and the modern liberal state and was characterized by calm and away from negative attitudes. But the policy of the first Russian President Boris Yeltsin made the party cautious, especially with the convergence of Russian-US relations in those years.
But with the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2000, his success in changing Russia’s foreign policy and returning Russia to the global front, and with the Iranian-Russian rapprochement aimed at balancing the Central Asian region and to prevent the collapse of the Caspian Sea security system, as well as convergence on the situation in the East Middle and other economic and military relations. All this positively reflected on Hezbollah and its relationship with Russia.
Russia participated with Hezbollah in the July 2006 war:
There is no doubt that the understanding between Hezbollah and Russia did not come out of nowhere. The military organization that fought Israel needed the Russian weapon, which is considered the best in the world, and Russia, despite its good relations with Israel, has put its interests at the forefront through the process of arming the organization. In addition to the experience of some modern weapons during the July war against Israel, which succeeded in stopping Israeli tanks with Russian “Kornet” missiles, Russian military experts visited southern Lebanon and met with a number of party officers after the 2006 war, which brought the two sides closer than ever before. This is in addition to the constant political and diplomatic meetings between the two parties.
With the onset of the Syrian crisis, Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war and the launching of Russian military operations to combat the Islamic State terrorist organization, coordination and cooperation between Hezbollah and Russia increased in Syria, leaving Israel at a loss. There is no doubt that this relationship between the two parties is the result of political and strategic intersections, but it has put the United States and Israel in a difficult situation, especially considering that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, unlike Russia, which believes that the organization is fighting ISIS more than America, and defending its territory from Israeli follies.

III. The Role of the Orthodox Church in Russian Foreign Policy:-
The Contemporary Social Doctrine of the Orthodox Church:
The promulgation of the Social Doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000 as an official document that launched its secular discourse into the public became concrete, written, and living, which is far removed from a lot of suspicions and explanations and unrealistic interpretations, and makes the religious text of the Orthodox Church takes a different line from the rhetoric of this voice or that officially belongs to the religious establishment itself.
At the same time, it makes the power reassuring of its role, to be the primary player that determines the separation between religious and secular in the internal theological discourse of the Church, and its external living discourse. The document comes to define the basic lines of the Church’s positions on the social issues that affect people’s lives in their world. It is also necessary to draw a clear direction that constitutes the ethical and spiritual conscience of the nation. Some points confined to the circle of ecclesiastical activity and other based on communication and dealing with and coordination with the political authority, which include the following fields:-
(A) To promote a policy of peace and understanding between peoples and ethnicities;
(B) Permanent vigilance in order to preserve the system of moral, spiritual, cultural, national and educational values in the educational system and at family, school and home levels.
(C) Joint concern for the distinctive cultural identity of the Russians, and the quest to preserve the religious and national historical sites and to ensure securing the permanent maintenance and restoration thereof.
(D) Dialogue and mutual cooperation between the two parties (i.e., between the Church and the Power) on issues related to the enactment of laws related to the religious and cultural choices of the population.
(E) The introduction of religious cultural heritage into the system of military education, which was taboo in the Soviet era.
(F) The establishment of joint agreements between the state and the church to reach the Orthodox spiritual presence in most educational activities of the other ministries of the state.
(G) Coordinate with the relevant ministries for the joint pursuit of problems that include family and community affairs, property system issues, ecological issues and others .
Through the analytical reading of the document, one senses the absence of direct political presence of the Church in political affairs. What the text of the document means is to achieve what the Authority wants, that is to say, political action is limited to its functions and the functions of the opposition parties. Thus, the longer political and ideological interpretation of this document is that the Church is prohibited from working in the following sectors:
(A) The political struggle for power, either through electoral propaganda, direct or indirect support to this or that party or to this political leader or social personality or that, or to those directly involved in fabricating the country’s political discourse and marketing it in the media and all the other activities;
(B) Inciting sectarian or ethnic civil wars or adopting an aggressive approach to external military conflicts;
(C) Direct or indirect contribution to moral or material support to the security and judicial organs competent in legislation or to the conduct of secret and public activities of these important sectors of the Authority.
Note that the document leaves the Church a margin of movement to play the role of the mentor, observer or even critic of the imbalance represented by the practices of the unjust state, particularly those relating to the needs of disadvantaged groups and the rights and concerns of the wider community of believers in the classical religions recognized by the State. This is what the document refers to on page 60 of its first edition in Russian .
In this document, there is much talk about the moral and spiritual role that the Church must play in the life of the Russians. It is a clear invitation to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with the classical religions active in the Russian capital, and to strive to consolidate fraternal ties with its Orthodox churches in the world, to seek to reduce differences with the Catholic and Protestant churches and to play a role in the rapprochement between the Christian and Islamic worlds.
Do things go as well as the heads of this religious establishment in this huge country, Russia? There are many points of success and stumbling blocks that the observer sees in her theological discourse at home and her behavior abroad
What one observes at the internal level is that the unity of the situation and the warmth of the encounter and cooperation are present, between the top of the hierarchy of the Church since the presiding of the late Patriarch Alexei II and even the current Patriarch Kirill and the heads of the political power pyramid Putin and Medvedev. In every religious and spiritual matter related to the Russian position that necessitate a decision taken by the president, and in every public or out-of-the-way pilgrimage to the Holy Places by Putin, usually the first reference was the late patriarch Alexei II, and the current is Kirill.


Kindest Regards,
Ahmed Moustafa
Postgraduate Student at the Russian Studies Dept, HSE
Director of Asia Center for Studies and Translation
Member of CODESRIA, Dakar, Senegal

My deep tributes to Dr. Amr Eldeeb (lecturer at Nizhny Novgorod University and the Arabic Editor in Chef of Realist Site) for publishing my report this in Arabic according to the presentation I did in English one week before at my university HSE concerning “the stakeholders who reshape Russia Foreign Policy”

تحياتي الحارة للدكتور عمرو الديب ، محاضر في جامعة نيجني نوفغورود والمحرر العربي في موقع “رياليست” ، لنشر تقريري باللغة العربية، وفقًا للعرض التقديمي الذي قدمته باللغة الإنجليزية قبل أسبوع في الجامعة العليا للاقتصاد بشأن “أصحاب المصلحة الذين يشكلون سياسة روسيا الخارجية”

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