Today, the Middle East is standing in the mid of a new era called as Arab Spring. It is a process formed with rebellions against the strict regimes to enhance freedom, human rights and democratization in the region states. It is a fact that the Arab Spring or Arab Revolution is not emerged itself. The starting point is considered as Tunisia rebellion and its spattering to the other countries in the region. However, Tunisia is not efficient alone setting in change on people’s mind in the region and rebellion to change the regime. The interests of the other insider and outsider countries have a significant role in the process of Arab Spring. The USA as a hegemonic power, particularly, is considered as the creator of these emerging developments. In this paper, the developments called Arab Spring and the bargain of the inside and outside actors from the region will handled; and then the influence of Russia as outside insider will be evaluated by analyzing its the core interests, preferences, assets, allies and rivals and if it has a grand bargain in the region.
The Middle East was in an order in favored of Arabs and Sunnis predominant groups in the region. However, the starting of a new movement against overthrow of strict and authoritative reversed the way and affairs of the region. Revolution means a totally change in the social basement of a political power. In this sense, it is still a matter of debate whether the Arab Spring is a revolution or not. According to Soli Özel, a Turkish pundit, the political power has started to change and it can go a radical revolution in the region but some institutions such as army will stay the same because of its strict structure. However, this revolution and the structure that exists since the Ottomans deducted the territory in Middle East will be resulted in favored of Sunni Arabs in the region. That is, the Islamist side will benefit from the all overturning of a power in the region. All of these changes and developments refer a new kind of order for the Middle East. The boundaries of the region which was lined during the Ottoman Empire and then between the dates of 1918-1922 can be rewritten in accordance with the favored of the Sunni Arabs in the region. The main reason of gaining benefit of Sunni Arabs is that the developments are breaking out by the well educated young people and thus some gaps and emptiness in the system, thus the Sunni Arabs are turning these weaknesses in favored of their own benefits. The Islamists are seen pro-teror, enemy of the West but, the adverse face of Islamists is not their own attitude but their despot leaders. Therefore, Islamists are the advocators of civil societies. They were only the toys of the despot leaders to reinforce their position in the state. That is why, according to the Islamists, the region will take its direction in the way of Sunni Arabs’ will and desires. When we look at the inside of the region, Ozel claims that the developments are favored Sunni Arabs but also, the developments in the region have to be evaluated from the outside actors. At that point, in the view of Özel, the developments in the region cannot be explained only with the will and desires of the USA, but also the other states such as France, Russia, Turkey and etc tries to redirect the way of the developments in accordance with their own interests. In the following paragraphs, the interests, actions, concerns and suffering of Russia will be analyzed.
The influence of Arab Spring increases day by day. These developments in the region closely concern Russian Federation. Russia acts more reactional because of the similarities between Arab Spring and the rebellions in Caucasus and the Central Asia. Russia has a fear to replace the same movements in its territory. In addition, its strongest inside ally, Syria, is in the mid of the developments. The effect of Arab Spring on Syria constitutes an importance on Russian policy at the same time. Therefore, the developments in Syria interests Russia closely. At the same time Russia enhances its policy in the region due to its own interest such as to reinforce its influence and power in the region, to maintain economic cooperation and trade with Syria, to restrain the foreign power such as NATO and the USA to include the developments as much as possible and not to lose the naval base in Tartus Harbour which is located in Syria.
Russia is watchful of what the Arab scenario can do within its own territories. In this sense, according to Russia, it is possible to create a great concern about the possibility of geopolitical change in the Middle East and its implications for the rest of the world. Russia highly considers on what the Middle Eastern interests are in the Caucasus. At that point, especially Israel constitutes a concern for Russia because of the experienced war in Georgia and the position and attitude of Israel in that war. Moreover, with regard to conflicts in the North Caucasus, some region countries such as Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Libya favored Russia but conflict with Israel threatened Russia. This circumstance causes the essentialities of Russia to intervene the developments in the Middle East since the Arab Spring has a potential to trigger a similar rebellion in Russia’s territory. Therefore, Russia is more interested in the Arab Spring zone because of its domestic conducts. However, Russia does not support these kinds of rebellions obviously because of the similarity between Arab situation and Caucasus and Central Asia circumstance since the developments in Arab world can create the similar rebellions in the Caucasus and Central Asia that threaten Russia policy obviously.
The Russian policy, in general, is established on applying a diplomatic solution without military intervene in the region and preventing foreign intervention as much as possible. In order to restrain military intervention in the region and response of the other strong actors such as NATO and the USA, Russia desires to increase its influence with the conciliation and peacemaking efforts in the region. As a matter of fact, Russia emphasizes that it can accept to support the whole various resolutions if they do not foresee any military intervention or sanction directly for Syria. Russia also put into word this demand in the 66th Session of the General Assembly of United Nations. The main reason underlying this action of Russia is most probably arise from the desire of giving a message of Russia to the world society about it is still such an effective and great power that it is in the part of providing peace with diplomatic negotiations rather than directly military interventions to the region.
The biggest ally of Russia in the region is Syria. The close relations between Russia and Syria were established during the USSR and it still maintains their cooperation. Two states have both military and technological cooperation. Besides, they engage close economic relations. The Syrian army is almost whole equipped by the Russian arm industry. In addition, Syria is the one of the most important trade partner of Russia. The volume of trade between two countries reached 2 billion dollars in 2010. Because of these economic relations, Russia does not accept any foreign intervention for Syria. Since, if there is an intervention by NATO, UN or the USA, it will be most probably with the economic sanction. In the case of possessing an economic sanction of Syria, Russia will come across to lose one of the biggest economic allies. It is so clean that Russia will support Syria and not accept to be applied any economic sanction on Syria. Hence, the decision of Russia will be veto in such case.
Another point to consider is the main interests of Russia in the region and its profits from the movements. Russia is interested from Syria in terms of geopolitical position. Its naval base on Tartus Harbour provides Russia a supremacy and guaranty in front of the USA. In the case of a conflict in the region, the NATO and USA can come to region by setting up a base which is a threat for Russia. Therefore, Russia both not to lose its own base on Tartus Harbour in order to restrain these powers’ intervenes and not to desire the USA and NATO has a voice in the region completely. Hence, another target of Russia is to protect its influence by using close relations with Syria and holding its naval base against any intervention of the outside and inside powers. When we consider what kind of profits from the movements Russia has, it is obvious that the reconciliatory view of Russia and its approach avoiding military intervention of the outside actors bring Russia to gear up its influence in the region. Thus, Russia has a position that effort to put peace and consider the all interests of the region and this redounds Russia a prestige in the region.
It is possible to claim that Russia is approaching the developments from the realist perspective. The foreign policy of Russia toward the Arab Spring is apt to evaluate this kind of rebellions as an interior matter and domestic policy of the concerned states. The other states which may have an interest on the matters should not to directly get into the domestic policy of the main states. According to the view of Russia, the unique legitimate authority that has the warrant to use power monopolistically is the concerned state. In this sense, it is obvious that Russia has a realistic view toward the developments in the Middle East. The main reason of Russia’s realist view may be seen as its efforts to restrain the intervention of the other powers in the region. It appears that if there is foreign intervention in the Middle East, it is possible to see the same intervention in the situation of Caucasus and Central Asia. Nevertheless, this is the circumstance that Russia avoids totally.
As a result, the present developments in the Middle East have a substantial role for Russia policy. Russia is in the supporter position of Syria which is the biggest ally and trade partner of Russia in the region. However, this support is not limitless and gratis. Russia has both economic interest from Syria and also it benefits from its naval base which is located in Syria. Thus, Russia puts its influence both in the region and against the other great powers who intend to intervene the region. In order to protect its influence and economic relations with Syria, Russia protests against the military intervention and economic sanction of the outside powers to the region. Since military intervention and economic sanctions that are applied particularly on Syria affects Russia’s role in the region adversely. According to Russia, it can come across losing economic interest coming from Syria as a result of economic sanction and lose its influence in the region as a result of the active role of the NATO and USA. Hence, Russia emphasizes the essential of providing mediation and peacemaking negotiations in the region. To sum up, Russia’s main target is to stay far from military intervention and prevent economic sanction, thus it will act in favor of its own interests, that is, there is no sanction, no intervention but diplomatic negotiations in the region.
Selmin Seda COŞKUN
Global Affair Programı Yüksek Lisans Öğrencisi
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