The Middle East should take page out of Russia’s book

The Middle East is suffering from instability, growth of extremism and violence

Maria Dubovikova

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The Middle East is suffering from instability, growth of extremism and violence. The current attempts at conflict regulation by the international community, as well as by regional players, appear to be inefficient and even trouble-making. Old contacts and systems of cooperation between the Middle East and the West are progressively degrading, as they no longer correspond to the aspirations of the Middle Eastern partners as well as to the realities of the modern Middle East and of the changing world.

What is really needed are new approaches, new opportunities and new methods of development and, certainly, new stable partners and mechanisms of crisis regulation in the region. Stability and diversification are keys to the future of the Middle East. Which countries could play the role of stabilizers and partners to diversify the players? There are several of them, one of which is Russia.

The Russian approach, based on respect and non-interference in home affairs, guarantees stability

Maria Doubovikova

It’s true when experts say that the Middle East is not first place in the hierarchy of the national interests of Russia. But what is always forgotten is that any hierarchy of importance in international relations is always relative. Even regions which are third or fourth on the list of national interest can leap up the list when the situation calls for it. Security issues, economy, energy partnership and military cooperation are the key interests of Russia in the region, if we were to describe it in wide strokes.

Russia’s privileged interest

The fact that the Middle East is not at the top of foreign affairs priorities means that Russia has no interest in influencing it and exercising power there as well as no will to dominate or interfere in the internal regional processes. It is not a so-called zone of Russia’s privileged interest. It is a positive factor for the region as the West considers the region a part of its sphere of influence and believes it has a right to intervene in its processes without ever asking or being asked. So, Russia becomes a counterbalance here.

In international cooperation, Russia is not bound by the Western ideals of democracy, so, unlike the West, it can efficiently cooperate with the Middle Eastern regimes which are rather far from the notorious Western democratic ideals and “values.” The West likes to remind them of this, when it is not content with the behavior of one or another country. So such a Russian approach, based on respect and non-interference in home affairs, guarantees more stability and predictability for relations and cooperation.

Russia has great potential as a crisis regulator. Effectiveness of its mediation was repeatedly proven during the negotiation process over the Iranian nuclear program. Thanks to Russia’s mediation, the deal over the Syrian chemical weapons was reached.

Russia takes part in the Quartet and it is among the rare countries that have stable relations and regular diplomatic communication with representatives of different levels of both Palestine and Israel. This capacity to talk with everyone is a true source of great possibilities for the Middle East’s stabilization, it should not be underestimated.

Peaceful coexistence

Russia itself is a great example of peaceful coexistence of a great number of ethnic and religious groups based on mutual respect. Drawn during the centuries, these relations, although they have had their rocky times, are still an existing model for building united societies in the Middle East composed of numerous religious and ethnic groups.

Moreover, Russia is much more patriarchal and conservative in comparison to its more liberal Western counterparts, this conciliates it with the Arab and Muslim world in general and simplifies the communication process.

The problem is that the steady rise of Russia’s presence in the Middle East is not in the interests of the West; neither of the U.S., nor of the European powers. In their traditional playground, a heritage of the colonial past, Russia is considered a rival. Now the Western players often try to restrict Russian participation to several issues they are unable to resolve by themselves. However, Russia is gaining influence and support in the region, despite, and sometimes thanks to, Western resistance. Even the most powerful players like U.S. have to consider the Russian position.

Hopefully, this ongoing process will finally change Western policy in the region making it based on principles of healthy concurrence in the economic sphere, as well as on principals of equal partnership and honest cooperation in conflict regulation. This would have very positive influence on the Middle East. There is still a big hope that in fighting for their own dominance the Western countries won’t trade-off the prosperity, development and the stabilization of the Middle East. There is also hope that the West will not work to deteriorate relations with Russia in the rivalry over the Middle East, as this makes the world too unstable. Sometimes it’s better to adapt to the changing realities than to try to adapt them to your aspirations.


Maria Dubovikova is a co-founder of IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club), IMESClub Executive Director and member of the Club Council, author of several scientific articles and participant of several high level international conferences. She is a permanent member of the Think-tank under the American University in Moscow. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) (honors diploma), she had been working for three months as a trainee at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. Now she is a PhD Candidate at MGIMO (Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia). Her research field is Russian foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, the policy of France and the US towards the Mediterranean, theory of international relations, humanitarian interventions and etc. Fluently speaks and writes in French and English. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme

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