West Asia Policy: How is Russia distinct from the US?

Alwaght– President Vladimir Putin of Russia visited Tehran last week for trilateral talks with Iran and Azerbaijan. Tehran and Baku are not the only countries that have close relations with Moscow, others do. The Russian leader earlier to Iran visit on October 4 hosted King Salman of Saudi Arabia who travelled to Moscow as the first-ever Saudi monarch to go to Russia. And then on October 25, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Qatar in an unprecedented trip to the Arab emirate. This comes while the Saudi diplomatic ties with Iran and Qatar have been severed.

Just unlike Washington, Moscow tries to avoid arranging biased entry to the bilateral and multilateral issues and diplomatic crises between various countries. This is well substantiated by the Russian leaders’ attempt to cultivate close relations and expand cooperation with most of the regional countries regardless of their rifts. This will likely produce regional states’ approval of Russia playing a long-term role in various issues of the West Asia region, something paving the way for the Russians to more and more enhance relations with the governments in the region.

Now the question is how is Moscow different from Washington in its political relationship with the West Asian nations?

No intervention

What is so clear in Kremlin leaders’ development of interactions with the West Asian states is an awareness to avoid concentration on the target country’s internal affairs. In fact, the feature of the realistic approach is apparently observable in the foreign policy attitude of the Kremlin officials, something putting first the common interests and cooperation rather than meddling in the domestic affairs of the partner states.

According to the Putin’s foreign policy doctrine in relation to the West Asian issues, the Russians step into the regional countries’ internal affairs to the extent approved of and even invited for by the central governments. For example, in Syria, the Russian military intervention in the terror-hit country to help Damascus fight against the majorly foreign-backed terrorists came in late September 2015 at the behest of the central Syrian government.

Right opposite to this approach of Russia stands the American doctrine that prescribes direct intervention. Mainly eyeing realization of own interests, the US meddles in other countries’ affairs using a set of methods and excuses ranging from human rights, freedom of speech, and backing opposition groups to orchestrating military coups, fueling civil conflicts, and even taking direct steps like military invasion. This hypocritical approach is glaringly apparent in Washington dealing with Riyadh and Tehran. On the one hand and decisively because of common interests, the Americans vividly turn a blind eye to the Saudi crushing of the opposition voices at home as a violation of the human rights as well as the internationally-documented war crimes daily committed by the Saudi forces as well as their allies in the Arab military coalition, which was founded in early 2015 to wage a devastating war against the neighboring Yemen.

On the other hand, Washington leaders, due to collision of interests with Tehran, put strains on the Islamic Republic using a variety of ways, including massive economic sanctions, military threats, and even backing the anti-Tehran terrorist groups. The same interventionist policy of the Americans is pursued in relation to governments of other countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, these countries’ home affairs have always been high on the American agenda in the Washington ties with them.

Rejecting foreign plans for toppling regional governments

For nearly three decades after foundation of the Russian Federation upon breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russians not only had no hand is collapse of even a single West Asian government but also they stood firm to repulse schemes meant to oust regional governments mainly holding independent and non-compliant stances to the Western interests in the region. This is extraordinarily evident when it comes to Syria, where Russia deployed forces in staunch support of the central government that had to counter multi-fronted, multi-party war of terrorism against Damascus, arguing that there was necessary to refer to the public vote, not foreign intervention, to see if people wanted to change their government or keep it.

This Russian attitude stands in stark contrast to the American policy in such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan, where the governments were ousted by the American military invasion of the country. The same approach was adopted in Turkey, as the Turkish officials claim. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the failed coup attempt of July 2016 accused the American intelligence services and Pentagon of offering backing for coup-plotters and specifically Fethullah Gulen, an influential US-based Turkish preacher certainly blamed for masterminding the power grab attempt. These fresh American measures beside the older ones to bring down national governments in the region either by use of proxies or direct military actions on the one hand and the Russian support of the regional states against foreign threats and intervention on the other hand define why the region is cultivating its anti-American sentiments and on the other side tending to embark on a policy of flourished ties with Russia.

Stabilizing role

In dealing with regional crises for instance in Syria and Yemen, the Russian leaders have mobilized their efforts to contain the crisis, combat terrorism, and restore stability to the affected states. Russian stepping in the Syrian crisis came obviously to stabilize the central government in Damascus, as the Kremlin criticized the Saudi-led air and ground aggression against Sana’a. These stances run counter to those of the US that intervenes in Syria and Yemen to change the existing political and regional order and customize it in tune with its desire.

Common regional security

Beside the above-mentioned issues, geographical closeness to the Central and West Asia regions push the Russians to play deeper role in regional developments amid growing common security challenges. The Western intervention in home affairs of such regional countries as Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen under the cover of counterterror fight and democracy patronage produced a chaotic period of severe ethno-sectarian violence, secessionist tendencies, extremism, and generally instability in the geo-economically and geo-strategically significant West Asia. On the opposite side stands Moscow with its view to regional security and stability being far from instrumental and unilateral. The Russians value common interests and this is the main code driving their fight against instability spread.

With these all in mind, regional states are poised to grow warmer relations with Russia. Constant regional will for more closeness to Moscow, along with continuation of the US interventionist and destabilizing behavior will prepare the ground for replacing a new regional order with the older one in which the Russians, and not the Americans, play the active role.