Russian Policy Across the Middle East: Motivations and Methods
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian policy towards the Middle East has been marked by inconsistency and unexpected U-turns. This has made it hard for Western policymakers to understand whether Russia’s presence in the Middle East represents a source of cooperation or of future conflict between Moscow and the West.
On the one hand, Russia’s stance on Syria, its refusal to recognize the threat posed in the past by Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, and its frequent attempts to penetrate and, in some cases, to dominate the energy and arms markets of Middle Eastern countries have raised concerns among Western powers. On the other hand, over the same period, Russia’s initial de facto support of Western involvement in the Libyan conflict in 2010–11, its cooperation to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue in 2012–15, its initiatives on conflict resolution in Yemen in 2011–12, and its refusal to export S-300 missile systems to Syria in 2013–14 offered hope that Moscow could play a positive role in the region.
The nature of Russia’s interaction with the Middle East has shifted since 2012. After the re-election of Vladimir Putin for a third term in 2012, Moscow substantially increased its presence in the region. It became more deeply involved when, on 30 September 2015, Russia launched airstrikes against groups opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. This set a new precedent. Before September 2015, Russia had tried to avoid any fully fledged involvement in military conflicts in the region. This was also the first time Russia focused on air power instead of ground forces – an approach often used by the US
Th is monograph “Th e Greek Islands of Catherine the Great: Russia’s Imperial Realities in the Mediterranean” by Professor Elena B. Smilianskaia of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, investigates the history of the Russian-Ottoman War of 1768–1774. It is based on a wide array of historical sources, among them archival records from the collections of the Russian State Naval Archive (RGAVMF), the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts (RGADA), the Russian State Military History Archive (RGVIA), and others. Th e text also contains visual materials gathered in Greece. Th e book proceeds in two parts: the fi rst discusses the development of political authority over the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea (otherwise referred to as the Archipelago islands), which came under Russian control in the 1770s, while the second examines the creation of a Russian naval base on Paros. Th e appendices include a journal kept by a participant of the expedition, K.L. von Tölle (an archival manuscript translated from the German and annotated by Anna Friesen) and M.G. Kokovtsev’s 1786 essay, “A Description of the Archipelago.” During the years from 1770 to 1775 Russian naval commanders Aleksei Orlov, Grigorii Spiridov, and Andrei Elmanov pursued Catherine’s goals in the Mediterranean, which involved constructing a Russian naval base and liberating Orthodox Christians from Ottoman rule. Th is was a unique moment in Russian history, as it brought the fi rst overseas territories — thirty islands in the Aegean Sea — under Russian control, and it provided an opportunity for future Russian military and political presence in the Mediterranean. Beginning in 1771, when the fi rst archipelago islands took an oath to Empress Catherine II, the leaders of the Archipelago expedition endeavored to reform government and taxation, set up a Senate and chancellery, create an autocephalous Orthodox Church, and form an independent Synod. In accordance with the Empress’s wishes, they established a special school for Greek children on the island of Naxos. However, according to the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774) between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the Russian fl eet had to leave the Eastern Mediterranean and Archipelago islands. Th e Russians also abandoned a partiallybuilt military base on Paros. Th ese departures stranded the islands’ inhabitants, who for fi ve years had considered themselves ‘subjects’ of the Russian empress. Th e Russian Empire left them only with the possibility of migrating to southern Russia. Catherine the Great’s Mediterranean policy provoked a discussion about the extreme nature of her colonial ambitions in that region. Th is book debunks the theories that ‘the Greek idea’ constituted merely a political game for Russia and that Russian activity on the Aegean islands was only military in nature. At the same time it demonstrates that Catherine II’s colonial ambitions were in fact rather limited compared to those of other contemporaneous powers. Not being able to support a colony in the eastern Mediterranean, Russia dreamed only about establishing a small Russian military base that would be surrounded by liberated self-governed Greek territories under Catherine II’s protection. When the liberated Greek islands became an obstacle to enlarging Russian territory on the Black sea coast, however, they were exchanged primarily for Crimea.
This book contains a unique collection of studies on key economic and social policy challenges faced by countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region in a short- and long-term perspective. Prepared within the EU funded FP7 project on „Prospective Analysis for the Mediterranean Region (MEDPRO)” conducted in 2010-2013 it takes account on recent political developments in the region (Arab Spring) and their potential consequences. It covers a broad spectrum of topics such as factors of economic growth, macroeconomic and fiscal stability, trade and investment, Euro-Mediterranean and intra-regional economic integration, private sector development and privatizations, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, financial sector development, poverty and inequality, education, labor market and gender issues.
Korean-Russian Jeju Forum 2012 was organized by the East Asia Foundation and was dedicated to relations between Russia and the countries of the Korean Peninsula.
Over the last quarter of the century relations between Russia and Poland are balancing between trying to understand the burden of mutual guilt and a desire to construct non-emotional pragmatic relations. Sources of tension vary. In particular, it is the desire of Poland to position itself as a valued player in NATO and the EU and the role distance between the two countries in IR system, which does not allow Russia to maintain an equal political dialogue with Poland. In fact, Poland is not afraid of a direct threat from Russia, but the worst scenario is the one in which Russia without changing the content of its imperial policy can be accepted as a full partner in the international community. The evolution of Russian statehood and national specifics of democracy is largely determined the assessment of the prospects of Russian politics in Poland. The mistake of Polish diplomacy last years was that it took no direct efforts to improve relations with Russia, but only tried to impose the dialogue on Russian authorities. Diplomatic methods were designed to hurt Russian interests and to create a topic for discussion. In response, after 2006 Russia chose the tactic of ignoring Poland. But, ignoring Polish authorities, Russian politicians acted similarly with other political forces. In Poland among influential political forces, there was and there is still no loyalty to Russia. For Russian interests it is no matter who are or will be in power in Poland. However as a rule, it is an important factor that foreign policy decisions are de facto within the competences of the President and the government, as well as experiencing a significant influence of the parliamentary forces. Recent trends show no tangible innovations in bilateral programme. But innovations appear in multilateral and conflict enough issues, such as deployment of US missile defense system in Poland or Polish supervision of "Eastern Partnership" programme. The main problem is low self-sufficiency of bilateral relations and excessive influence of third countries. Any efforts to normalize bilateral relations will be meaningless until the weight of bilateral relations really increases to each of the party.
Russia-Polish relations, foreign policy of Poland, Polish-American relations, EU, Common Foreign and Security Policy, NATO