05.05.2021 Author: Yuriy Zinin

US-Russian Relations: A Middle Eastern Perspective


The relationship between the United States and Russia has been a topic of discussions among Middle Eastern experts and in media outlets in light of Washington’s recent disruptive actions. After the telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden, tensions between the two leaders were expected to ease but these hopes were dashed when instead they intensified after the United States imposed new sanctions against Russia. And according to an opinion piece in UAE’s Al Khaleej newspaper, Russia is likely to respond in kind.

Middle Eastern media outlets have been following the latest moves taken by US President closely. In fact, the latter has recently called Vladimir Putin a killer and then expressed willingness to build “a stable and predictable relationship with Russia”. A similar tactic of painful jabs and retreats is used in boxing.   In the opinion of Dr. Muhammad Bakr, Joe Biden’s team is prepared to use inflammatory rhetoric towards Moscow but not to engage in direct confrontation with it. And there are two reasons for this approach.

Firstly, the US leadership needs to somehow cover up its failure and defeat reflected in the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan as well as to silence some official voices inside the US opposing the withdrawal.  Secondly, Joe Biden’s team would like to portray the US as an influential military power on the global stage by convincing Russia to pressure Iran to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, which could alleviate Israel’s concerns about regional stability.

Lebanon’s TV channel Al Mayadeen has described the latest maneuvers made by the Biden administration as crazy. As part of its foreign policy, the new US leadership has been indiscriminately imposing sanctions against officials and/ or institutions of two powerful countries, Russia and China. And its diplomatic efforts have included unusually provocative statements.

Tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation as well as PRC have been growing since Joe Biden became President. In the opinion of the channel, top security advisors in the United States need to keep in mind the following factor, which they are well aware of but appear to ignore for the moment. In Russia and the PRC, power remains in the hands of the dominant party unlike in the United States, where various groups compete with each other to influence decision-making processes. In the legislative sphere, the Republican party, which received over 70 million votes during the 2020 presidential election, could have a great deal of influence.

In Russia, power is “held” through Vladimir Putin’s “steadfast and strategic outlook” and through Sergey Lavrov’s “steady and intelligent diplomacy”. The West should not forget that Putin who does not like to joke “will not give in to blackmail”.

Any attempts by the Biden administration to exert influence in regions of particular concern to the Kremlin, such as Ukraine, Belarus and the Caucasus, and to continue attacking both Russia and China at the same time are a grave mistake. According to a local journalist, such moves will encourage Moscow and Beijing to strengthen their relationship and cooperate together even more, thus posing a far from insignificant strategic challenge to Washington. And such developments could push the global community closer to a multipolar world order.

Middle Eastern experts have been following the evolution of Joe Biden’s foreign policy in order to understand what consequences it will have for their region. Will it be similar to that of the Obama administration and to what extent? And how different will it be from Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy?

It is quite clear that there is a need and hope for improved relations between regional players in this part of the world.  The author is referring to, for instance, ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, etc. There have also been quite a few reports about meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials in Baghdad recently.

According to the arabi21 website, the US administration based its assessment of the situation in the Middle East “on the fact that it is a region of eternal wars”. And if the US is to be guided by such a view in their decision-making processes in the region, the author of the report is not optimistic about future developments.  Washington is likely to see the current crisis in the region as part of its strategy to drown Russia in conflicts that consume its energy.

In addition, its aim is to disrupt China’s geopolitical Belt and Road Initiative by promoting “tension and turmoil” in the Middle East. Therefore, the US policy “will be based on letting this region rot with its conflicts” so it could “turn into a black hole that swallows up the efforts of its opponents”.

But who created this black hole in the first place?

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”.

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