Understanding Russia’s return to the Middle East


Over recent years, there has been a significant resurgence of Russian power and influence in the Middle East, which has been evident in the diplomatic and military intervention into Syria. This article identifies the principal factors behind Russia’s return to the region. First, there are domestic political influences with the coincidence of the uprisings in the Middle East, the so-called ‘Arab Spring,’ with large-scale domestic opposition protests within Russia during the elections in 2011–2012. Second, there is the role of ideas, most notably the growing anti-Westernism in Putin’s third presidential term, along with Russia’s own struggle against Islamist terrorism. These ideational factors contributed to Russia’s resolve to support the Assad government against both Western intervention and its domestic Islamist opposition. Third, Russia has benefited from a pragmatic and flexible approach in its engagement with the region. Moscow seeks to ensure that it is a critical actor for all the various states and political movements in the Middle East.

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Correspondence to Roland Dannreuther.

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Dannreuther, R. Understanding Russia’s return to the Middle East. Int Polit 56, 726–742 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-018-0165-x

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  • Russia
  • Middle East
  • Syria
  • Intervention
  • Arab Spring