As I was going through my weekly reading of academic journal articles, I came across an interesting set of arguments on Russia’s strategies and objectives in the Middle East by the British American Security Information Council. Author Shivani Handa takes a crack at explaining the ambiguous motives behind Russia’s policies toward Iran and Syria, but I am still looking forward to some fresh analysis that does lean too heavily on the supposed ideology of non-intervention as a rationale.
Learning from the aftermath of the intervention in Libya, which left them with a bitter sense of betrayal, the Russians will undoubtedly be less likely to cooperate in the future. During the Libya crisis, Russia felt that its views were ignored after it helped to pass a UN Security Council resolution that created a no-fly zone as well as including other measures that allowed for military action to be used to aid in the protection of Libyan citizens. However, it was then seen that their support had been taken advantage of as a means to oust Gaddafi and overturn his regime. Russia will now be adhering more stubbornly to its principles in order to remain in a position of authority and prevent a repeat of such actions. Dimitri Simes, President of the Center for the National Interest has cautioned that, “if you understand Putin’s psychology, the last thing you want to do is to put him publicly in the corner if you want his cooperation”. Simes continues— mirroring what Kremlin officials are probably thinking — that the Obama administration is simply using Russia as an alibi for its own hesitation to intervene in Syria.
Nothing shocking in that argument, but it is notable just how conservative and risk averse the Kremlin’s strategy is in the Middle East, seeking to avoid any major changes to the leadership structures of these countries for fear of all out “chaos” in the global pecking order…
Russia also claims that any such intervention or military action would undermine international law and lead to regional chaos and a disruption of global order. Putin recently re-emphasized the importance of the UN Charter in the management of global affairs and has invoked its principles in the justification of Russian vetoes of any use of force in UNSC resolutions, saying, “these principles guide us to settle all problems through negotiations, without resorting to outside intervention”, especially when dealing with such delicate political situations.25 Early last month, Lavrov presented a speech to the Russian Federation Council, and in taking this sentiment a step further, he declared that “arbitrary interpretation” of the Charter could pose a “threat to the world order”.