How Russia benefits from the West’s mistakes

Maria Dubovikova
Maria Dubovikova
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The West has made numerous huge mistakes, starting with supporting jihadists against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, which have put the international community under unprecedented threat and strengthened Moscow’s hand.

This flirtation with Islamists has cost the lives of thousands of people, including the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The subsequent U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan cannot be considered a mistake, because the international community had no other option but to act as it did. However, the operation was ineffective and full of dangerous blunders.

The West’s mistakes have given Russia unprecedented opportunities to strengthen its international position, as well as replace or compete with Western players in the Middle East.

Maria Dubovikova

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq proved to be a disaster. Washington acted under false pretexts, and without a clear understanding of the situation on the ground. The Americans had no clue how to sustainably rebuild post-war Iraq. They thought democracy could be imposed without taking into consideration the historical and cultural particularities of the country.


Thus the whole initiative was doomed to fail, with numerous dangerous consequences. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now threatens the international community, is a product of this invasion.

Another act that was performed neither at the right time nor in the right way was the withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan. U.S. President Barack Obama wanted to end the wars launched by his predecessor. It was a noble step, but it has led nowhere. The current decision to leave boots on the ground due to deteriorating security was expected and inevitable. It is always easier to launch a war than to end it.

The deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan gives Russia a strong pretext to extend and strengthen its military presence in Central Asia, especially Tajikistan. These republics, formerly part of the Soviet Union, have become a recruiting ground for ISIS, which threatens Russian security.

The NATO-led intervention in Libya was another dramatic mistake. The country barely exists anymore. It is split and much of it is lawless, with Islamist militants pledging allegiance to ISIS. Likewise, policy toward Syria has been ineffective, and badly planned and executed, without in-depth understanding or strategic thinking.

The West’s mistakes have given Russia unprecedented opportunities to strengthen its international position, as well as replace or compete with Western players in the Middle East. Russia does not betray its allies - its policies have long remained largely unchanged.

Its operation in Syria has been undertaken to demonstrate its military might, and to warn the West to think twice before acting. However, Moscow’s conflation of all Syrian rebels with ISIS is dubious and counter-productive.


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

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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