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Russians do not come to the Middle East - they come back

Russians do not come to the Middle East - they come back

August 15 2018 LJ cover – Русские не приходят на Ближний Восток — они возвращаются
Tags: Middle East, Politics, Russia, Analytics, USA, Sanctions, Egypt, Iran, Nuclear Energy

And, probably, will remain there.

Four decades after the United States as a whole successfully pushed back the Soviet Union in the Middle East and began to play a key role in the region, Russia is reclaiming its lost positions. The process of America's partial withdrawal from the region, which began under President Barack Obama, was further developed under Donald Trump. And if this continues, Russia will soon replace the United States.

The growing influence of Russia is evident throughout the region from Morocco to Iran. This surprising turn of events, which fits into Vladimir Putin's comprehensive strategy for restoring Russia's position as a great power, was the result of deft diplomacy combined with the desire to sell weapons and nuclear reactors to all who ask.

While international attention was focused on Iran's nuclear program, Russia played an increasingly important role in two other trends emerging in the region: a large-scale conventional arms race (from 2000 to 2014, only weapons to the Persian Gulf were imported for the sum of 1,3 trillion dollars) and a strong interest in the purchase of nuclear reactors. All programs for the purchase of reactors reflect a reasonable need for energy, but the "peaceful" nuclear programs in the Middle East have a detrimental tendency to turn into military ones.

The US allies in the region today have ceased to trust their strategic destiny and security to America. While they welcome the harsher policies of President Trump, the scars of American weakness that characterized Obama's tenure in office have not healed yet, as they see it. Moreover, because of the unique nature of Trump, they began to constantly question America's credibility. At the moment, America's allies are reinsured.

The wrath of Egypt due to insufficient, in his opinion, America's support of the Mubarak regime, and the subsequent US sanctions on arms sales led to a significant improvement in its relations with Russia. The agreement on the purchase of four Russian nuclear reactors was signed in 2017. Military communications were restored, including several dozens of modern fighters, combat helicopters, C-300 missile systems, as well as the holding of new joint military exercises.

Egypt has been the cornerstone of US policy in the region since it got rid of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1970. Thanks to this, it became the basis for three mutually supportive pillars of US policy in the Middle East up to the present day: the establishment of a moderate pro-American Arab camp centered on Egypt and Saudi Arabia; solutions to regional civil strife, for example, in Iraq, Iran and Libya with the support of a moderate Arab regime; promotion of the Arab-Israeli peace - again with the support of a moderate Arab regime. The rapprochement of Egypt with Russia is a serious blow to the positions of America.

For several decades, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia were built according to an unwritten rule: security for oil supplies. In 1991, the United States even participated in the war, defending Saudi Arabia. Today, however, the Saudis are unpredictable. In 2017, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made the first historic visit of the Saudi monarch to Russia. An agreement was signed on the purchase of the most modern S-400 and anti-tank missiles. An agreement on nuclear cooperation was signed, and Russia hopes to provide at least two of the 16 reactors planned by Saudi Arabia. Russia and Saudi Arabia, whose joint oil production is approximately 20% of the world's oil production, also coordinated policies aimed at raising global oil prices.

The Russian modest military invasion of Syria, which involved only two squadrons of fighters, was surprisingly successful, as a result, the Assad regime was saved, and it did not cost practically anything to Russia, which left bloody ground battles to Iran and Hezbollah. Obama's forecast that Syria will turn into Russian Vietnam, was groundless.

Russia has become a major player in today's Syria, securing a long-term presence there through Syria's obligation to provide it with its air and naval bases (from which Russia projects its regional influence) for another 49 years. Syria, which is not significant in itself and for the United States, concentrated all the key regional problems, including the confrontation of the Sunnis and Shiites, the confrontation with IGIL (the organization banned in Russia), the expansionism of Iran and the possible conflict between Iran and Israel. Russia's position in Syria provides it with influence in all these issues.

The US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran pushed the long-standing Russian ally, Tehran, even closer to it. Iran counts on Russia's help in fighting the US sanctions regime and confronting any military action against it. Russia has already supplied C-300 complexes to Iran, negotiations have begun for the purchase of fighters, tanks and artillery as soon as the restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council expire. Russia provided Iran with its only nuclear reactor and could sell a few more.

Turkey, which has for many decades been hostile to Russia as NATO's ally, is establishing ties with Moscow and, according to some reports, is ready to acquire S-400 missile systems, despite the protests of its NATO allies. Morocco, Bahrain and Qatar are also interested in C-400. Russia signed a large-scale agreement on arms sales with the United Arab Emirates and is considering access to naval bases in Libya. With Tunisia, Russia signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

The National Interest, USA
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