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Why Russia sees Bahrain as a partner in the Middle East

The King of Bahrain arrives in Moscow on Monday for his second such visit of 2016

Maria Dubovikova

Published: Updated:

The King of Bahrain arrives in Moscow on Monday for his second such visit of 2016. This visit is important considering, in a way, Bahrain is playing the role of the GCC’s ambassador.

Its unique position in the region, its capabilities and role permit the country deliver indirect messages to the Russian government. Russia listens to Bahrain attentively as it knows the val-ue of the messages that are delivered and is interested in building strong ties with Bahrain as it considers the country a door to the Gulf and the wider Middle East.

The visit coincides with the ARMY-2016 international military-technical forum in Moscow, where the Bahraini delegation will reportedly ink a military cooperation agreement with

Russia. Bahrain is interested in Russia’s Mi-8/17 and Mi-26 helicopters as well as in the opening of the regional helicopter service center. The signing of the cooperation agreement does not guarantee contracts. But the agreement opens up new opportunities for
bilateral cooperation. There is no doubt that during his visit, the king will discuss issues of an economic and political nature.

Vital interest

For the Russian side, cooperation with Bahrain is of vital interest. Having avoid-ed severe recession, Russia’s economy is still drastically affected by the deep crisis, the pro-spects of which are unclear until now. The main medium-term risk for Russia’s economy is the continued slump and lack of investment. The significant loss of investment from Western countries makes an investment from the East warmly welcome. Russia is turning East is search of new markets and allies as its relations with the West have been drastically affected by se-vere tension over many issues on the international agenda and Russia’s newly active foreign policy. While its capacities in terms of investments are quite limited, the Russian market is looked upon warmly by foreign investors. However, it should be admitted that investments are quite risky.

Russia’s strong involvement in the fate of the Middle East and its return to the region make it an important partner

Maria Dubovikova

The risk is not the only reason cooperation can be tricky. Russian business is notoriously slow and irresponsive to neither challenges nor to opportunities. Business, political and decision-making circles have little understanding of the way things work in the Middle East and how to cooperate with it. The Bahraini case is not an exception. Thus it is important for Middle Eastern countries and for Bahrain to work on how they are perceived by Russian society and seek out suitable partners.

As for political issues, the common agenda has significantly extended in the past years. Russia’s strong involvement in the fate of the Middle East and its return to the region make it an important partner. The Western policy of imposing its will and its treatment of the Middle East as the third world is no longer acceptable for regional powers. Middle Eastern countries have accumulated enough power to permit them to claim independence on the world stage.

A point of convergence

The Syrian crisis can also become a point of convergence for Middle Eastern powers and Russia, despite the contradictions in positions regarding this issue.

There is no need to expect a breakthrough or any significant agreements to be reached between the two countries during this visit.

Russia-Bahraini relations will witness a strong boost in the near future, as the bilateral agenda is more than positive. There is hope that this positive example will stimulate a further strengthening of ties between the other GCC countries and Russia.

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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

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