“Putin mocks Biden” and “What’s behind war of words between two presidents” are just a few of the headlines in Arab media outlets addressing the verbal attacks by head of the US administration, Joe Biden, on Russia and its President. In the Middle East, where decorum is still alive, statements made by the US leader garnered attention from journalists as well as bloggers on social media networks.
According to a recent article published in Rai al-Youm, Vladimir Putin behaved as a true diplomat by showing commendable restraint in response to US leader’s verbal jabs. “We used to think that the American ‘vulgarity’ would disappear with the disappearance of President Donald Trump,” stated the author, adding that Joe Biden was “following the same approach, if not worse”. He also writes that the US leader seems to have forgotten about the massacres committed “by his country in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya”, etc. but Arabs, particularly Muslims, remember them because their families are victims in these conflicts.
A report in a UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej opined that the US leader wished to settle accounts with the Kremlin belatedly. “President Biden and his party want to ‘avenge’ their defeat in the 2016 elections, and their failure to condemn Trump by taking revenge on the Kremlin and Putin personally, but this time on the allegation that Moscow made efforts to undermine Biden’s victory, and supported Donald Trump instead,” writes the author of the article.
Some social media users are unsure whether to take the accusations of meddling in the US presidential elections made by USA’s leadership against Russia seriously or not. For instance, one of them asks whether American people are so naive as to allow Vladimir Putin to interfere in US elections in such a manner.
A number of authors think that the statements made by Joe Biden reflect the new US administration’s outdated views that the United States remains the world’s ruler imposing its policy and agenda on other nations. However, in reality, such beliefs are a thing of the past. It seems that Joe Biden’s statements mask his attempts to use the same old playbook in a new situation with its unique challenges. And one of the hardest is the Coronavirus pandemic, which dealt a serious blow to most members of the international community.
The US leadership understand that, in the current climate, Russia is among the key obstacles in USA’s path towards global dominance, particularly in the Middle East. According to some political observers, Russia’s clout on the global arena has been growing recently, and Moscow is therefore capable of responding to the US and its allies in equal measure. And Americans are not pleased with such a development.
Historically, the US leadership has viewed Russia as a “staunch rival for leadership” (since the days of the Cold War). However, the global political landscape has been transforming. According to some Middle Eastern media outlets, the biggest threat to US interests comes from China, an Eastern dragon, with its growing economic clout (in fact, PRC’s GDP has almost reached that of the United States). If the Russian Federation and China were to form an alliance, the balance of power would not be in favor of the West, especially because of the unpredictable effect the COVID-19 pandemic has been having on the world. According to a Middle Eastern journalist, Russian-Chinese ties will improve in the foreseeable future. The leaderships of both these nations agree on the necessity of establishing a multipolar global order and cooperating in order to limit the hegemony of the United States in managing world affairs. In fact, the interests of both China and Russia are more compatible nowadays than they are with those of the USA. In addition, increasing tensions in US-Russian relations will probably have an impact on the situation in the Middle Eastern region, i.e. on a number of hot spots there.
During Donald Trump’s presidency, the PRC and Russia both opposed USA’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In addition, it was reported that in 2016, China became the largest source of foreign investment in the Middle East. Concurrently, Russia “engaged diplomatically” with all the countries in the region, and increased its arms sales to them. Its leadership also concluded an agreement to establish a naval logistics and repair base in Sudan.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s tour to the countries of the Gulf region, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, also garnered the attention of media outlets. According to Saudi journalist Omar Ali Al-Badawi, Russia could play an increasing role in politics and the economy in the Middle East… It is desirable to try and continue maintaining the relationship with Russia as this may help accelerate the resolution of some complex issues which are harder to negotiate with the West.
Possible escalation in tensions in US-Russian relations under the new US administration is a cause for concern. Hence, a number of Middle Eastern observers view such changes as an important and dangerous challenge to global as well as regional security and stability. Some have therefore urged the US leadership “to pursue the approach of dialogue and negotiation” with the Russian side in light of combative statements made by Joe Biden recently.
Yuri Zinin, a senior researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Institute of International Studies of the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.