News / Middle East

    Russia, US Still Competing for Influence in Middle East

    FILE -  In this Dec. 19, 2006 file photo Vladimir Putin, then Russian President, right, and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad smile as they shake hands in Moscow's Kremlin.
    FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2006 file photo Vladimir Putin, then Russian President, right, and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad smile as they shake hands in Moscow's Kremlin.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi
    Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia have revived memories of an era many thought was long gone, when Washington and Moscow competed for influence in the Middle East during the Cold War.

    These days, there are still competing interests, analysts say, but not enough to fuel a renewed Cold War front.

    Across the Middle East and North Africa, the Russian footprint remains.

    “The most interesting case is Egypt where Russia has stepped in with prospects of arms sale when the U.S. has cut back on arms transfer to Egypt,” said Mark Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University in Virginia.

    With its support of the Syrian regime and its determination to prevent a Western military action against the Syrian regime, Russia has re-emerged as a central player in the Middle East, analysts say.
     
    It is perceived by some analysts to have scored a tactical victory in global strategic diplomacy last year by brokering a deal on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons and preventing a U.S. military intervention.

    “It's a huge international geostrategic win for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” said Leon Aron, director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "Russia is on equal footing now as a power in the Middle East."
    Still, Katz said Russia knows it limits.

    “While Russia takes advantage whenever the U.S. has a disagreement with an Arab country, I am not sure that Russia really wants the U.S. to leave the Middle East because Russia can’t play the same role that the U.S. does.” he said.

    While Putin is trying to make a mark strategically in Middle East areas vital to Russia, Bessma Momani, an associate professor of international relations at Waterloo University, said that Putin too hopes to carve himself a personal legacy.
    “His drive into the Middle East reflects his own interest to be remembered as the leader who brought back Russian power and a sense of dignity to the Russians who felt it has been lacking since the breakdown of the Soviet Union,” she said.

    But while tensions over Ukraine have evoked Cold War memories, Katz said he doubts there would be a return to a cold war scenario between Russia and the U.S. in the Middle East.

    “Unlike the old days when the Soviet Union used to give arms to Arab allies whether they paid or not, Putin is seeking profit from arms sales and to increase Russian exports and Russian investment in oil companies in the region,” Katz said.

    Russia has worked to regain oil contracts in Iraq and Russia’s Lukoil Company has won a number of large oil contracts. In 2012, Moscow signed a $4 billion dollar arms deal with Iraq and 17 percent of Russian arms sales in recent years went to the United Arab Emirates.

    According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 27 percent of Russian arms exports between 2008 and 2012 went to the Middle East and North Africa.

    Thirteen percent of that went to Syria where Russia maintains a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus.

    But Russia’s ties to Syria are also causing some regional strain.
     
    Russian relations with Saudi Arabia and most of the Arab Gulf States have worsened since the onset of the Arab Spring in January 2011.
     
    And Russia’s support of Iran and Tehran’s stance over its controversial nuclear program is making some Middle East leaders nervous, analysts say.
     
    “Saudis and Qataris are very unhappy with Russia for its support of Assad’s regime and the Gulf countries have doubts about Russian’s intentions backing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.” analyst Katz said.

    Experts believe that Russian involvement in Crimea will distract Moscow’s drive to gain influence in the Middle East and that could open a window of opportunity for the U.S.

    “The Obama Administration should be more inclined to listen to the Saudis and the Qataris and all parties who are arguing in favor of doing more for the Syrian opposition to change facts on the ground.” Katz said.
     
    But Russia too could be viewed by Arab states as a form of balancing out U.S. interests and policies in the Middle East that have drawn criticism in the Arab world.
     
    “The more interference the U.S. brings into the region, the more it helps Putin’s claim that the U.S. is trying to take over the Middle East,” Momani said.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Riverboy21 from: victoria falls zimbabwe
    April 13, 2014 9:00 PM
    well done russia, time the drunk usa congress chilled out and smoked a joint. relax usa..no more wars remember.

    by: Anonymous
    April 13, 2014 3:17 AM
    bashar al assad is a serious criminal , anyone who does business with assad should be held accountable as an accomplice. That goes for Putin too.

    by: jason from: Salt Lake City
    April 12, 2014 6:54 PM
    Putin is more than likely Gog, from the land of Magog. -Ezekiel 38-39.
    In Response

    by: Eric from: New Jersey
    April 12, 2014 9:55 PM
    Bush thought the same thing about Saddam. You apocalyptic religious loons need to stay out of politics and far away from the big red button.

    Putin wants his regional influence and Europe isn't interested in stopping him. This middle east is descending into the 9th level of hell and no one there wants peace. The Americas shouldn't let the conflicts of the Old World consume the entire planet.

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    April 12, 2014 9:13 AM
    It's a continuation of the cold the war, that's how the US and its Western allies see it. Russia went to sleep after what it termed end of the cold war without understanding that it was the beginning of another era. Happenings around the globe tend to reawaken this reality to Russia and I believe it will not be about to lose sight of it in the nearest future. Right now it is prepared to retake its rightful place in the comity of nations and diplomacy granted that the US continues to make some tactical and diplomatic mistakes that warrant a reappraisal of its relations with allies in the region. Russia's position is helped by its choice of a seasoned diplomat in Sergei Lavrov as well as its strategic ability to stick with its allies no matter the situation as proved in Iran and Syria, as against USA's dealing with allies in Libya and Egypt. Again, the Middle Easterners should also be weighing USA and Western involvement in the mob action system of changing governments in the region otherwise termed the Arab Spring. While it seems its memory was to go away, recent events in Ukraine and Syria currently in a civil war reawaken what may be viewed as dangerous incursion into the affairs in the sovereign nations to forcibly democratize or recolonize the region. That may push the countries to recognize and align with either Russia or China instead of USA or its Western allies.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora