Russia Makes Moves in the Middle East

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Russia is playing a game of Bismarckian realpolitik in the Middle East – political maneuvering based on current conditions, rather than on ideological premises, that uses the exertion of power to gain benefits for one’s country. Russian President Vladimir Putin is forming as many alliances as he can, in order to protect Russian economic and political interests. “Moscow tries to support a dialogue with all countries in the region without expressing obvious support for any particular state or coalition, and, so far, it has been partly successful in doing so,” says Cipher Brief expert and Carnegie Moscow Center scholar Nikolay Kozhanov.

The heavy hand of Russian involvement can be seen most clearly in Syria, where Russia is exerting power and Washington has made relatively few commitments during the civil war. Syria is an important ally for Russia because it is Russia’s only real ally in the Middle East. According to Cipher Brief expert and former U.S. Senior Defense Official and Attaché to the Russian Federation Brigadier General (ret.) Peter Zwack, “Russia and the USSR have been in Syria since 1970, which became especially important for them after the Egyptians kicked them out of Egypt in 1972. Syria is the only remaining Russian base/platform outside the Former Soviet Union since the end of the Cold War.”

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