Walter Laqueur of the Center for Strategic and International Studies has a very thought-provoking new paper out entitled “Russia’s Muslim Strategy“. It’s quite a bit to digest, as there are obviously a number of subplots to consider in this assessment, but I cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone interested in having a better understanding of the complications and even contradictions of one of the most overlooked drivers of Russian foreign policy over the years. Rather than reinterpret his observations, I think it is more prudent to let his own words do the talking:
One of the main challenges facing Russia is its relationship with Islam, both on the internal front and in foreign policy. It would certainly be too much to say that the Russian leadership and public opinion have failed to recognize this, but the full importance of the issue has not been appreciated. The reasons are not shrouded in secrecy: it is the deeply rooted belief that America, and the West in general, constitute the main peril facing Russia in the past, present and the foreseeable future.
In fact, Russia and the West share certain common interests in the Middle East and the Muslim world in general. But a realization of this truth collides with the new Russian doctrine as it has developed in recent years, according to which Muslim countries are Russia’s natural allies in the inevitable and perennial confrontation with the West. This ongoing debate, largely ignored in Western capitals, forms the subject of this paper.
Read more here.