At some level, Russia’s approach to the war in Libya seems successful. Yet Russia can only achieve so much without a clear idea of what its interests in Libya are and what the country is good for beyond a demonstration of the influence Moscow has gained by intervening militarily in Syria—possibilities that are shrinking as the United States turns its attention anew to the country’s years-long war.
If the relationship between Russia and Turkey is a marriage of convenience, then right now the two sides are staying in it purely for the sake of the children: i.e., the political investments that Putin and Erdogan have made in developing bilateral relations when not everyone approved.
Having declared themselves mediators in the civil war in Libya, Russia and Turkey will try to replicate the model of cooperation and mutual accommodation they developed in Syria.
If Syria becomes the setting for a clash between Washington and Tehran, this could be a major problem for Moscow. Until now—and not without Soleimani’s help—Moscow had always managed to find a compromise with the pro-Iran forces in Syria. It’s not clear how the situation will develop now.
Russia is back and here to stay. Others had better accept it and learn to deal with it — without undue expectations, but also without inordinate fear.
Considering the prospects for trade, Washington shouldn’t yet be concerned by the growth of Russian influence in the Gulf. It’s obvious, however, that Arab countries are being increasingly proactive in diversifying their connections. Moscow is simply making use of this to gain economic and political advantages.
Carnegie Moscow Center’s Director Dmitri Trenin and Rethinking Russia discussed his new book “What Is Russia Up To in the Middle East?”, Moscow’s role and place in the region, the future of Syria and the Islamic State as well as Russia’s Syria collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S.
Russia realizes that with the war waning and reconstruction looming, others will begin to step forward in Syria, including China, Europe, and Japan. Moscow will seek to partner with them to secure a piece of the lucrative reconstruction effort.
The eyes of the world are on the Middle East. Today, more than ever, this deeply-troubled region is the focus of power games between major global players vying for international influence. Absent from this scene for the past quarter century, Russia is now back with gusto. Yet its motivations, decision-making processes and strategic objectives remain hard to pin down.
The risk of a confrontation has increased since Friday, but, paradoxically, greater American involvement in Syria may also bring about closer US-Russian co-operation there, leading eventually to a political settlement and an end to the bloody six-year civil war.