The events in the Middle East that have been going on for two years now make us think about the mechanisms for resolving crisis situations in the modern world. “A small victorious war” has increasingly become used as a tool for resolving internal political conflicts and presented as a legitimate tool for assisting people “fighting for democracy”. This tactic is designed to quickly obtain political and economic dividends, but is fraught with slipping into chaos in international relations. In this regard, the issue of the modern Middle East policy of Russia, for which this very conflict region in the world has always been a zone of important geopolitical interests, becomes relevant.
The roots of Russian-Arab political, economic and cultural relations go deep into history. For Russia, the Middle East has been and remains a geographically close region, occupying an important place in its cultural and religious life. The acquaintance of the Slavs with this region began long before the official date of the Christian baptism of Russia: the Slavs mastered the path “from the Varangians to the Greeks” and from there to the Middle East in the 6th century. The first information about Russian pilgrims to the Holy Land dates back to the 11th century, when the Russian pilgrim Theodosius of the Caves in 1022 left with the caravan of wanderers from Kursk to Jerusalem. From this time, Russian walk to the holy places of Palestine become regular.
The process of the formation of the Russian statehood and the expansion of the borders of the Russian Empire led to the fact that it had to establish multidimensional relations with its immediate neighbors - the Persian and Ottoman empires. These relations were complex, sometimes dramatic and not always peaceful.
The strengthening of Russian interests in the Middle East was favored by the victory of the Russian army in the Russian-Turkish war (1828 – 1829). The concessions made by the Ottoman Empire resulted in the opening of numerous religious and diplomatic missions.
In 1820, on the instructions of Tsar Alexander I, Dmitry Dashkov, adviser to the imperial Russian embassy in Constantinople, arrived in Palestine under the guise of a pilgrim to explore the possibility of opening a Russian consulate, and also make a plan to build a church on the Mount of Olives. Even then, the main priority of Russian foreign policy in this region was the preservation of peace. This is evidenced by the instruction of the Vice-Chancellor Carl Nesselrode to the Russian envoy in Constantinople Appolinaria Butenev from 1 December 1830 of the year, which, inter alia, says: East. We could not, without deep regret, observe the serious discord that has arisen between countries bordering on us in Asia ... ”This instruction ends with a reference to the emperor’s will:“ To preserve lasting peace in the East, to take care of the tranquility of nations and scrupulous observance of peoples in Europe guaranteeing, is such a principle, invariably guiding the policy of our most august sovereign. "
This principle inherited the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. The priority task of the USSR was to maintain peace and stability in the region, a feature of which is that it was and remains the most conflict-prone in the world, a source of increased danger, located near the borders of Russia. The potential threat of internal conflicts exists in almost all countries of the region due to the multi-ethnic and multi-religious structure of the population, as well as due to the fact that the borders of many Middle Eastern states are either the result of agreements between colonial powers or were unilaterally established for those who militarily stronger. Territorial disputes between these countries, as well as internal political conflicts on ethnoconfessional soil, which sometimes spill over into armed clashes, is a very typical phenomenon for this part of the world.
Preservation of historical continuity
Having become the legal successor of the Soviet Union, Russia, in developing its foreign policy doctrine in the Arab East, faced the problem of maintaining this continuity. The formation of a new foreign policy strategy took place in the midst of a bitter domestic political struggle and a socio-economic crisis. There was a serious discussion about relations with the USSR’s two main Middle Eastern strategic allies: Iraq and Syria. Moreover, the diplomacy of the new Russia had to build its line in these areas in the context of the strict obligations imposed by Security Council resolutions on these states. And this turned out to be one of the reasons that the tendency to revitalize relations, including economic ones, between Russia and the countries of the region, was outlined only at the end of the 90s.
In the second half of the 90-s, Russia began to restore the positions it had previously lost, using the entire accumulated potential. Pragmatic considerations were put at the forefront - regional security, economic benefits for the state and Russian companies, historical spiritual ties.
In 2000, President Vladimir Putin approved the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation, which acknowledged the country's loss of the status of one of the influential centers of the modern world. The priority priority was proclaimed a strategic partnership with all the CIS member states, and the Middle East was pushed aside to the periphery of Russian interests (preceding Africa and South America). At the same time, the task was to restore and strengthen previously lost positions, primarily economic ones. Other aspects of the positive (although often controversial) experience of the former Soviet presence in the region (scientific, technical, cultural, humanitarian) were not mentioned in this document, and the Arab region was included in a wider geopolitical entity - the Greater Mediterranean, which was considered as a connecting node for the Middle East. East, Black Sea region, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea basin. Here new geopolitical constructions should have appeared, in the context of which the Arab world was actually eroding, becoming for Russia nothing more than an object of solving pragmatic tasks.
However, the beginning of the new millennium made major adjustments in the foreign policy of many countries of the world, including Russia, which was associated with the emergence of new challenges to the stability of the system of international relations and above all with the events of 11 September of 2001 in New York and Washington and military operations 2003 of the year in Iraq.
In the current situation, a far from theoretical issue that was voiced by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the January 18 press conference 2012 was one of the priorities for Russian foreign policy: “As in the context of an active attack on the principles of national sovereignty, which for many decades world order, to preserve and strengthen statehood, and therefore, to prevent the escalation of the new war and global chaos? " Back in 2004, in his programmatic article, the Minister of Foreign Affairs emphasized that our country is in favor of stopping any attempts under the banner of defending democracy to grossly interfere in the internal affairs of other states, exert political pressure on them, impose double standards in assessing electoral processes, and civil rights. and freedoms. Those who resort to such practices should, according to Lavrov, be aware that this only discredits democratic values, turning them into essentially a bargaining chip to achieve self-serving geostrategic values. These words have not lost their relevance today. Russia insists on strict observance of international law and considers it unacceptable to adjust the transformation processes in the Middle East to the interests of countries that are not directly related to the region.
The evolution of attitudes towards the "Arab Spring"
The events of the “Arab spring” modified the appearance of the Arab region and made significant changes to the balance of regional forces, affecting the entire system of international relations.
The “Arab Spring” in the West was perceived as a victory for democracy, in Russia - rather as a victory for the West. Until the end of 2011, Moscow’s position on events in Arab countries was not always clearly expressed, and official information from the Foreign Ministry often differed from the statements of officials. It is enough to recall Lavrov’s statement that our country will not act as a mediator in the conflict in Libya and support the African Union in his mediation mission, after which the special representative of the Russian President Mikhail Margelov arrived in Benghazi as an intermediary between the Libyan authorities and the oppositionists. At the same time, the Western media actively replicated the views of politically engaged figures.
The inconsistency of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation has caused serious criticism, especially in the Arab media.
However, having “skipped” the Resolution 1973 of the Year on Libya in the UN Security Council, Russia already in March 2011-th strongly opposed the policy of forceful promotion of democracy, seeing in the implementation of this resolution a clear manifestation of double standards and unfair competition for the markets of the Middle East.
In the programmatic article “Russia and the changing world,” Vladimir Putin, condemning the primitive massacre of Gaddafi, simultaneously strongly warned the West about the possibility of further unbalancing the entire international security system in the case of a similar scenario in Syria without the sanction of the UN Security Council.
Such a position of the Russian Federation has become a serious irritant in Russia's relations with leading western partners and a group of Arab states - the initiators of the interventionist policy. Russia's refusal to join punitive operations to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria caused a wave of openly hooligan attacks on the Russian embassies of the so-called Syrian opposition in the Arab world. There were acts of vandalism against the diplomatic missions of our country in Libya and Lebanon. Voting in the UN Security Council on the Syrian resolution showed serious disagreements on this issue with Moscow, and all further statements and comments about Russian policy (often openly aggressive) left no doubt that Russia and Western countries have different views not only on how to ensure peace in the region, but also on the fundamental causes of the rising tensions in it. Hence numerous attempts to interpret and distort Moscow’s position in their own way, which allegedly supports the bloody dictatorial regime for its own benefit.
Russia, having understood that it turned out to be deceived regarding Libya, no longer wanted to move in the wake of the world decisions that are made without its participation, and firmly refused to support the actions of the world community, which could result in another change of the ruling regime. Trying to adapt to the rapidly changing situation in the Middle East, Moscow has adjusted its position in terms of national interests.
When it became clear that the Russian leadership would no longer allow authorized military intervention, serious information pressure began to be put on the Kremlin in order to force it to agree with the arguments of the Americans, to join the demand for the expulsion of Bashar al-Assad from Syria and recognize the claim to power by the Syrian opposition. Russia's position turned out to be the main obstacle to the “promotion of democracy” in the Arab countries and the cause of a serious conflict of the international level, which manifested itself, among other things, in the information war - the most important weapons modern world politics, which Russia was clearly losing.
It is obvious that the official statements of representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the struggle of Russian diplomacy in the United Nations could not compete with the popularity of such influential world-wide news agencies as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyya, which presented sensational, ideologically engaged, Arab streets. and often (as demonstrated by the events in Libya) and frankly staged reports.
In this regard, it should be noted that the information conflict, unfortunately, did not find its adequate coverage in the Russian mass media, and the anti-Russian propaganda campaign did not meet with a unanimous rebuff on the information field, including from the employees of Russian analytical centers. On the central TV channels one could hear experts who expounded a concept opposing the foreign policy line of Russia. The impression was that most experts on the Middle East share the American approach to resolving this crisis. This happened in a difficult period for our foreign ministry when it tried to create the conditions for the negotiation process and find a diplomatic line for settlement.
Settlement of the Syrian conflict
Nevertheless, Russia's official position taken in the Syrian conflict, despite unprecedented pressure from the West and the oil monarchies, was nevertheless heard when UN Special Representative in Syria Lakhdar Brahimi agreed with Moscow’s proposal to solve the Syrian crisis on the basis of the peace plan and Geneva agreements, as well as work with all parties and states capable of influencing the situation with a view to translating it into the mainstream Syrian political dialogue. It is already quite obvious that regional and extra-regional players are not ready to take decisive actions with respect to Syria and take responsibility for the further development of the situation. The hopelessness of the situation was also realized in Washington, which seized upon the Russian initiative of holding an international conference on Syria (Geneva-2).
According to the new version of the concept of foreign policy approved by President Putin in January 2013, Moscow considers it unacceptable for military intervention to be carried out under the pretext of “responsibility to protect”. It is extremely important in this regard that Russia intends to develop its own informational influence on public opinion abroad and use the latest communication technologies and other soft power mechanisms for this.
Now our country supports Syria on all issues in the Security Council (in particular, it did not explicitly accuse the government of using chemical weapons), provides assistance in the supply of oil products and military equipment for government forces, is the main supplier of weapons to Damascus under previously signed contracts, and sends humanitarian aid to Syrian refugee camps, exchanges information through special services and demonstrates the presence of a group of Russian warships in East Srediz mnomore, is going to put to Syria antiaircraft missiles C-300 (which is a major impediment to creating a "no-fly zone" and "humanitarian corridors"). At the end of May, a Syrian delegation arrived in Moscow to discuss a new contract for the supply of fighters. So far, this is all that Russia can do for Syria. If you think about it - not so little.
In my opinion, there is not enough coordinated information policy on the Syrian issue, which would seriously support the efforts of our diplomacy and the delegation in the Security Council. We should also strive for the realization of the possibility of a scientific substantiation of the Russian approach to resolving the Syrian conflict in the Western and Arab media.