By intensifying its current activities in the Middle East, the Kremlin is pursuing three goals: economic, political, and security.
Vladimir Putin’s announcement of Russia’s withdrawal from Syria is another cynical move by the Kremlin to retain control over the situation.
President Putin’s announcement that he is pulling back from Syria should not have come as a big surprise. He believes he has met most of his goals there—many of which have nothing to do with Syria itself. Russia has found a way back to the table where the world’s board of directors sits and resolves regional conflicts together.
The North Caucasus Islamists’ wish to join ISIS makes some sense. By joining, they would cast themselves not just as regional players but worldwide jihadists. The relations between ISIS and the Caucasus Emirate, however, have been fraught with difficulties.
In the Middle East, it is the regional actors that are at the forefront. They are calling the shots—literally. And they are yet to learn the fine art of co-operation alongside confrontation.
The Saudi-Iranian conflict will compel Moscow to make a hard choice: stand with its Iranian partner or step aside and remain ostensibly neutral.
The political rupture between Russia and Turkey is unlikely to heal as long as Putin and Erdogan are in power. The conflict between the two countries may not have killed the resurgent diplomatic push to end the Syrian crisis, but it has definitely complicated it.
Turkey is one of Russia’s strongest trade partners. Imposing economic sanctions on yet another country is likely to hurt Russia itself the most.
The conflict between Moscow and Ankara may make it difficult to reach an agreement on a future political settlement in Syria and further diminish the chances of a meaningful anti-terrorism alliance between Russia and the West.
The downing of a Russian plane by Turkey is jeopardizing the strong business and political relationship built by Ankara and Moscow. The two countries’ clash over Syria suggests that relations will get worse before they get better.