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Operation in Syria brought Russia a side foreign policy bonus

23 May 2018
Tags:Middle East, Syria, Politics, Analyst, USA, Israel, Palestine, Iran, Polls

Residents of Arab countries are much more sympathetic to Russia than to the United States. This was shown by a recent sociological survey. The most interesting thing is that sympathy for Russia is growing in a country that traditionally opposes the Arabs, Israel. In what ways did Moscow gain the sympathy of such conflicting sides?

Russia outstripped the United States by a large margin among the inhabitants of the Arab countries, especially among the youth. This follows from the results of the annual survey of the Arab Youth Survey. It is held in 16 countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, and Palestine) among 3500 respondents aged 18-24 .

Young Arabs called their preferred ally in the foreign policy arena. Russia gained 20 percent, ranking fourth in this list and being the only non-Arab country in the top five. It is perceived by Arab youth as a more reliable ally than the United States (at 11). At the same time, more and more Arabs (57% of respondents) see the US as an enemy. In 2012, only 32% of respondents stated about Washington's rejection.

Recall, based on the results of a similar survey conducted two years ago, Russia gained only 9%. Thus, in just a couple of years, the credibility of Russia more than doubled. This phenomenon is now being discussed by the Western press. In particular, the Financial Times linked this growth of respect with the overall growth of the Kremlin's influence in the countries of the Maghreb and the Middle East, with its activity in Syria. One of the key factors in the growth of sympathy for Russia among Arab youth was the image of its president. Vladimir Putin was named by the respondents as a decisive and authoritative leader, but they consider Donald Trump as a "funny hooligan" with racist inclinations.

The popularity of Russian media in Arabic is also growing. RT television channel in the Middle East and North Africa weekly view already about 11 million viewers, of which 2,2 million are in Iraq. According to RIA Novosti, RT Arabic became the most visited online resource among news channels in Arabic in March-April.

"If the Arab youth now looks at Russia with approval, then this is done at a peak to the Americans. She was offended by the United States for recognizing Jerusalem and on other occasions.

So I would not exaggerate the significance of this survey result. Arab youth are unambiguously anti-American more than pro-Russian, "the former Israeli ambassador to Moscow, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Zvi Magen, told the newspaper VIEW.

"With regard to Islam, religious issues, Moscow is also perceived as an ally of Tehran, that is Shiites, and in the Arab Sunni countries perceive Iran as a threat," Zvi Magen said. "Russia has never enjoyed much love in the countries of the Middle East, except for those moments when it was directly involved in wars, in battles on the ground, as it is in Syria today."

Putin proved to be cool

"Russia is perceived as a strong country, which, among other things, demonstrated its strength in Syria. The Arabs love the strong, they seek strength and are subject to power. This is how it happened historically, "the Syrian political observer Abbas Juma said in a conversation with the newspaper VZGLYAD. Arab countries prefer not only strong, but reliable allies, he added. In this sense, the US has shown itself not in the best way.

First, Washington withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal, Juma recalled. In the Arab world, not all sympathize with Iran. But the very fact that the US provokes a conflict that threatens the entire Middle East is not a plus for the Americans.

The second blow to the US reputation was the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "Trump spat at all - gave the Jews what Muslims and Christians consider rightfully theirs. Previous presidents, Bush and Obama, were perceived as odious because they unleashed wars against Muslims. But none of them has encroached on what is sacred for many Muslims, "Abbas Juma said.

"It is significant that the Arab Youth Survey survey included Arab youth from the United States ally countries: from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar (where the largest US base is located)," the expert points out. The allied relations of the authorities of these Arab countries with the US are not in doubt - unlike, for example, the US-Turkey relations. But the opinion of the "street" radically differs from the position of the authorities.

Of course, against this background, Russia looks very profitable, Juma believes. "Firstly, this is a strong country," the interlocutor stressed again. - Secondly, she does not back down from her obligations, she does not "change her shoes" on the move. " According to the expert, not only the Syrian operation, but also the support of Palestine could play its role.

It is difficult to expect deep knowledge about Russia from the Arab public. But if we ask a person from the street that Russia is associated with, they (in addition to the cliche set) will also tell about Vladimir Putin, "Juma said. "In the East, such charismatic politicians are very respected, they are bowed down before, they are afraid. And fear in the East has a special role in governance, "the interlocutor believes.

It is curious that domestic liberals, speaking out against the Russian operation in Syria that began in 2015, cited such arguments, saying that military intervention in the Middle East would undermine Moscow's diplomatic efforts and reduce sympathy for Russians in this region. However, in practice, as practice has shown, everything happened exactly the opposite.

Not all of our "former" in Israel love us

Although many in our country are convinced that Israel is very well treated with Russia, since "there is a quarter of our former people", this is nothing more than an illusion. Most of them clearly dislike Russia, including emigrants from the Union. This follows from the results of the poll, according to which even the purely arithmetical number of sympathetic Russians is less than the number of our former compatriots.

The paradox, however, is that after 2014, sympathy for our country began to grow dramatically. As the annual poll of the American sociological service Pew Research Center shows, five years ago 77 percent of the inhabitants of the Jewish state treated Russia badly, approvingly - only 21 percent. However, by the time of 17, the picture had changed dramatically. Against Russia was set only 61 percent, but already 35 percent perceived Russia benevolently. At the same time, the attitude towards the United States, on the contrary, deteriorated.

Zvi Magen believes such a percentage is very high. He reminds that in Israel they consider themselves to be part of the Western world and many of its residents are guided by the point of view of the largest Western TV channels. "Therefore, even if 21 percentage was good for Moscow, then it was already a lot," says the former ambassador. - The Russian army appeared in the region on the side of opponents of Israel, more precisely, Syria and Iran. Moscow is believed to support our enemies, as well as the enemies of the West. So the attitude in principle can not be too blissful. "

On the other hand, Zvi Magen has made a reservation, Russia is nevertheless considered quite positive in the context of common values, roots, and culture. "So the attitude towards Russia is a mixture of different factors. This is a complex relationship, "he admits.

Meanwhile, as Zvi Magen admits, Russian diplomacy has so far succeeded in engaging in successful political balancing act. "Moscow really now has a strong advantage in the region. In my opinion, this is almost the only player for today who can talk in parallel with Iran and with Israel. But for this it is necessary to pay politically. This status has costs. This means that not everyone is satisfied with you until the end. And Iran, probably, is unhappy that Moscow is dealing with its opponents, "the former diplomat suggested.

"But, in principle, while Moscow is playing well. In this region, the stakes are very high, it is very difficult to win. You can take for example any other power and compare the results of its game in the Middle East, "sums up the former ambassador.

It can be concluded that thanks to the intervention in Syria, Russia has become closer to the Middle East. But it is hardly possible to talk about disinterested sympathy. "Arab Street" demonstrates sympathy for our country at the peak of America and Israel. Opponent of the Arab world and Iran Israel sees in Russia a power that will tame Damascus and hold Tehran. The key word in both cases is Strength.

Michael Moshkin
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