Russian Chess in the Middle East - Part III

Wednesday, August 29, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade

This is part two of a four-part series on Russian maneuvering in the Middle East, and how it affects Israel. If you have not done so already, we recommend first reading Russian Chess in the Middle East - Part I and Russian Chess in the Middle East - Part II

Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank focused on Russian domestic political affairs and foreign policy voiced a more “mainstream” opinion concerning recent Middle East developments.

US-Russian confrontation:

Referring to the battle between Russia and the US over the title of superpower, Trenin said “Moscow withdrew from geopolitical competition in the Middle East against the United States in 1990, at the time of the first Gulf War, and has not re-entered the race since then...”

Addressing the fears that the turmoil in the Arab world might grip Russia and China, the expert argued that the developments were not connected but conceded that the revolts might grip other countries in the region. “It is not so much a rehearsal as setting the stage for a wider regional confrontation. This stage is widening to include Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq and even Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province,” he stressed.

Syria:

According to the expert, the collapse of the current Syrian regime won’t mean the end of Russia’s influence in the country. “Russian interests in Syria are important, but far less than vital. If Syria indeed slides into chaos, it will cease to be a commercial partner for Russia... The civil war has already taken on a sectarian dimension. The Alawites will fight on, with Assad or without him,” he explained.

Iran:

The expert argued that Russia won’t support a US strike on Iran but conceded that Moscow might be willing to “cooperate on the diplomatic track, which might include pressure. For now, however, Moscow thinks new sanctions will only empower the wrong people in Iran, and disempower the more sensible groups,” Trenin told Israel Today.

Israel:

Unlike Safarov, who speaks out against working with the Jewish state, Trenin voiced a more mainstream view, suggesting that the two countries might actually see eye-to-eye on some acute issues. “Most Russians feel a genuine affinity towards Israel,” argued the pundit, who points out that -- apart from personal, cultural and economic ties -- many Russians sympathize with Israelis, who are subject to the constant threat of terrorism.

“As for President Putin, he may be Russia’s most pro-Jewish leader,” explained the expert, referring to the appointment of Mikhail Fradkov – whose father is Jewish – as the head of Russia’s foreign security service and, years earlier, the first Jew to serve as prime minister.

Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this important story.

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