Why the Middle East needs Russian-Gulf cooperation

Russia is claiming back its position in the Middle East that it lost after the Soviet Union collapsed. It is an expensive and tricky adventure that Moscow has decided to accept.

Its voice has been at the forefront of the Syrian conflict from the start. One can agree or disagree with it, but cannot ignore it. Amid its regional power-projection, Moscow is sowing the seeds of cooperation.

The Russia-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit and high-level dialogue was established five years ago. Current circumstances give it new meaning and purpose, but talks have been mostly stalled due to widely diverging views on Syria. These divergences are hard to put aside, and they prevent the sides from a breakthrough in relations.

Besides differences in national interests and approaches, there is deep misunderstanding and a dangerous inclination to simplify each other’s intentions and interests.

The GCC simplifies its understanding of Russia’s intervention and goals in Syria to supporting the regime, but the real goals and reasons are more complex. Better understanding each other’s intentions would give both sides more room for talks and compromise, contributing to resolving the conflict.

Moscow can be a neutral and necessary mediator between the GCC and Iran, whose strained ties negatively influence sectarian regional problems

Maria Dubovikova

Common ground

Besides the sensitive topic of Syria, another topic that has dominated talks - and is important for both the GCC and Russia - is the war on terror. Moscow can be a neutral and necessary mediator between the GCC and Iran, whose strained ties negatively influence sectarian regional problems. However, there is no guarantee that mediation would achieve anything, because whoever the negotiator is, the two sides need the political will to overcome their differences.

The potential for Russian-GCC cooperation is huge. Dependent on oil and gas exports in an era of cheap hydrocarbons, they have to rethink their economies. Together, they can achieve a lot. Russia’s scientific capacity is significant, even if governmental and business support for science is miserable. Investments in science, and the inauguration of joint projects in the fields of science and technology, could be mutually beneficial.

Russia is a suitable partner for the GCC because Moscow never puts preconditions to building bilateral ties. Cooperation could decrease regional tensions, diversify the GCC’s alliances, and decrease its dependence on old allies. The Russia-GCC summits can foster strong cooperation on different levels.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

Last Update: 06:51 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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