The key words in mainstream Russian commentary on and analysis of the spectacular changes in Middle East are “destabilization”, “turmoil’” and “extremism”, but a term that is practically absent is “Arab spring.” This prevalent negative perspective on the unexpected erosion of the familiar political landscape is not shaped by concerns about Russia’s material interests in the region. Indeed, Russia, unlike most other major powers, has no stake in the oil supplies from the Gulf and even benefits from the increase in the oil price in the global market; it also gains in reputation because energy consumers now see it as a very reliable source. Nevertheless, Moscow has taken a
Russia’s Counter-Revolutionary Stance toward the Arab Spring
The wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa has not only affected Russia’s interests but also opens some new opportunities for strengthening Russian influence. Nevertheless, the prevalent attitude in Moscow towards these dissimilar but inter-connected crises is negative, which is caused primarily by the nature of its own corrupt quasi-democratic regime haunted by the specter of revolution. The stalled NATO intervention in Libya has re-focused the attention of the Russian leadership on the issue of sovereignty, which determines the decision to disallow any UN sanctions against Syria. Russia’s position has evolved in synch with the course taken by China, and Moscow is interested in strengthening this counter-revolutionary proto-alliance by building up ties with conservative Arab regimes, including Saudi Arabia, and also by upgrading its strategic partnership with Turkey. Harvesting unexpected dividends from the turmoil in the Arab world,Russia cannot ignore the risks of a sudden explosion of a revolutionary energy – and neither can it effectively hedge against such a risk.
In Russia, the strategy for the regime’s self-preservation has been based on denying the opposition a legitimate political space and pushing it underground, but this—as the “Arab spring” has shown—creates a hidden explosive potential.
Already have an account? Sign In.