DUBAI — Following a decade of “near-absence” in the Middle East, Russia is once again asserting itself as it looks to sell arms to former Soviet-era clients while breaking into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market.
“Moscow’s policies again have become markedly more active,” said Dimitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “During his presidency, Vladimir Putin made trips to the region and paid a visit to Tehran, the first one since Stalin’s wartime allied conference journey.
“However, Russia’s policies are not yet embedded within some overall strategy and are largely driven by a set of pragmatic considerations. Russia’s principal objectives are to advance its economic interests and to counter threats to Russia’s national security,” Trenin wrote in a paper for the Washington-based Century Foundation.
Yuri Baramin, a UAE-based Russian political and military analyst, said the Russian approach to the Middle East can be described as a “wait and see approach.”
Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Kondrashov, Russian Deputy chief of staff and head of GRU military intelligence, spent the first day of his visit to Cairo, Tuesday, Oct. 29, with Egyptian military chiefs, going through the list of Russian military hardware items they want to buy in their first major arms transaction with Moscow in more than three decades, debkafile’s military sources report. The Egyptians asked Moscow to supply the sort of advanced weapons withheld by the United States, and topped their shopping list with medium-range intercontinental ballistic missiles that cover Iran and most of the Middle East.
They told the Russian general that Moscow’s good faith in seeking to build a new military relationship between the two governments would be tested by its willingness to meet this Egyptian requirement. Continue reading
President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation has drawn a line in the sand over Syria, the government of which he is determined to protect from overthrow. Not since the end of the Cold War in 1991 has the Russian Bear asserted itself so forcefully beyond its borders in support of claims on great power status. In essence, Russia is attempting to play the role in Syria that France did in Algeria in the 1990s, of supporting the military government against rebels, many of them linked to political Islam. France and its allies prevailed, at the cost of some 150,000 dead. Can Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pull off the same sort of victory?
Even as Damascus pushes back against the rebels militarily, Putin has swung into action on the international and regional stages. The Russian government persuaded U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to support an international conference aimed at a negotiated settlement. Putin upbraided Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his country’s air attacks on Damascus. Moscow is sending sophisticated anti-aircraft batteries, anti-submarine missiles and other munitions to beleaguered Assad, and has just announced that 12 Russian warships will patrol the Mediterranean. The Russian actions have raised alarums [sic] in Tel Aviv and Washington, even as they have been praised in Damascus and Tehran. Continue reading