Russia in the Middle East: in Search of Its Place
The second decade of the twenty-first century is characterised by Russia’s active involvement in Middle Eastern issues. Unexpectedly, Russia decided to return to the Middle East, and Damascus appeared to be the gate to the region. Russian policy in the Middle East ceased to be ideological following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and no longer followed a messianic narrative. The State has become more pragmatic, neither “pro-Arab” nor “pro-Israel” and, in principle, serves its own interests without adhering to a specific camp. Russia has repeatedly changed its vision and respective narrative of the events taking place in the Arab world since the onset of anti-government protests in the region in 2011. In fact, Russian policy in the Middle East has taken a u-turn during the past 8 years: from near total disinterest to direct military intervention.
It is not surprising that Mubarak’s administration “overlooked” the social explosion. Indeed, statistical data righteously claimed that the country was developing very successfully. Economic growth rates were high (even in the crisis years). Poverty and inequality levels were among the lowest in the Third World. Global food prices were rising, but the government was taking serious measures to mitigate their effect on the poorest layers of the population. Unemployment level (in per cent) was less than in many developed countries of the world and, moreover, was declining, and so were population growth rates. What would be the grounds to expect a full-scale social explosion? Of course, the administration had a sort of reliable information on the presence of certain groups of dissident “bloggers”, but how could one expect that they would be able to inspire to go to the Tahrir any great masses of people? It was even more difficult to figure out that Mubarak’s regime would be painfully struck by its own modernization successes of the 1980s, which led to the sharp decline of crude death rate and especially of infant and child mortality in 1975–1990. Without these successes many young Egyptians vehemently demanding Mubarak’s resignation (or even death) would have been destined to die in early childhood and simply would not have survived to come out to the Tahrir Square.
Socio-economic development in the Arab world is an important element of global pattern changes in the early 21st century. They show a complex interaction of processes in the masses of the new young "Internet generations" and the elites, and somewhat forgotten gastarbiters. Matrix of kingdoms and republics, oil and non-oil countries make situation more complex for the region than for any separate country. From our viewpoint the political spring in the Arab world requires, first of all, the analysis of the Arab society, its nature and characteristics that distinguish it from societies of the Christian tradition of Europe and the Americas. And is it revolt of the middle class in one oil country or a rebellion of tribes? The new middle class, the information revolution and the dispossessed masses, including migrant workers in the background of the huge concentration of wealth of the ruling regimes represent the socio-economic reality of the Middle East that will be present in international politics in the next decade. And finally - to what extent the lesson of Lybia can be applicable to other oil countries? What may be lessons for other elites?
This article accounts for the revival of geopolitics in Russian post-Soviet foreign policy thinking and also for the fact that geopolitics-inspired foreign policy prescriptions had relatively little impact on the actual conduct of Russian foreign policy. It is argued that classical geopolitics was revived in Russia in order to objectively present the dissolution of the Soviet Union as a crisis. The crisis, in turn, was constructed using a number of themes first articulated by classical Eurasians, namely ideology, modernisation and Russia's distinctiveness. However, geopolitical thinking had little practical relevance because the solution to the crisis was eventually conceptualized in non-geopolitical terms.
The article analyses worsening of the US-Russia Relations in 2012. It discusses domestic and foreign policy reasons of the relations deterioration, explores the nature of the relations, and provides forecast for the near- and middle-term future. The paper also provides analyses of the model of "selective pragmatic cooperation" between the US and Russia, which emerged by the biginning of 2013.
The paper explores the outcomes of Russian Federation G20 Presidency in 2013. The analysis is based on the model of balancing external conditions and national priorities for developing an agenda in informal institutions (supply-demand model). This analytical paradigm allows to reveal to what extent the Presidency has managed to ensure: 1) a high level of response to the key global governance challenges in the agenda and summit decisions; 2) a balance between national and other members’ interests in the Presidency priorities; 3) utilizing the institution’s capabilities; 4) conformity of the role chosen by the Presidency (organizer, mediator, political leader, national representative) to the combination of external and internal conditions.
Russia took over the responsibility for coordinating the G20 work from Mexico, accepting the rotating presidency of this premier forum for economic cooperation on December 1, 2012. The G20 met the fifth year of its work under conditions of a two speed recovery which by March 2013 transformed into a three speed recovery. Unsteady and sluggish growth, persisting imbalances and downside global economy risks demanded that this forum of the world largest economies concentrate the efforts on developing a set of measures aimed at boosting sustainable, inclusive and balanced growth and jobs creation around the world. These priorities constituted the core of the Russian G20 presidency concept, aimed at ensuring sustainable global growth and rebuilding of trust between the world economy different agents in accordance with the G20 mission and capability.
Consolidating efforts on its core economic and financial priorities, the G20 also launched collaboration to overcome such risks as increasing income disparities, chronic underinvestment into development of safe, secure and modern infrastructure, unforeseen consequences of regulation.
The analysis findings reveal that the Russian presidency managed to ensure a good balance of national interests and the partners’ prioritiesin the G20 agenda; utilizing the G20 capabilities to respond to the key global governance challenges. The choice of the presidency role depended on the nature of the issues and was defined by a combination of internal and external conditions. Thus, the acuteness of the problem for all summit participants determined demand for leadership in including into the economic forum agenda the debate on a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria. On employment and social policies the Russian presidency combining the roles of an organizer and a political leader helped upgrade the G20 dialogue to a new quality level.
A major success factor in deliberation and adoption of the comprehensive action plan on base erosion and profit shifting was the OECD capability to take responsibility for the plan development. With the OECD leadership, solid experts’ foundation, and a high level of relevance of the problem for all members, the presidency supported the process as the organizer.
On the topic of stimulating long-term investment, a priority for Russia as well as most of the G20 partners, the presidency managed to consolidate the efforts of several international institutions over a short period. On this priority, as well as on the financial regulation reform, the presidency acted as a representative of the national interests and an organizer. In developing the new development strategy the choice in favor of a combination of a mediator and an organizer proved most productive. As a result the G20 agreed a new cooperation for development outlook.
The presidency active collaboration with the international organizations and engagement with social partners was instrumental in harnessing their experts’ potential and enhancing the G20 transparency, legitimacy and effectiveness. The G20 institutions consolidation continued through development of new coordination mechanisms and strengthening accountability.
Under the Russian presidency the G20 reaffirmed its value as the premier economic cooperation forum. Emphasizing restoring strong and inclusive growth and employment while ensuring fiscal sustainability, the leaders for the first time in the history of the G20 stressed that the well-being of individual people should be at the center of the growth agenda. This consequential outcome of the five years collaboration might be a start of a new G20 agenda where inclusiveness is one of the pillars of growth.