President Putin’s successful Mideast tour this week evinces Russia as a credible, respected and perhaps pivotal mediator for peace in the region. This ascendancy of Russia comes as the United States flounders from its bankrupt hegemonic policies.
For most of the decades since the Second World War, it was the US that dominated the oil-rich region. And it is no coincidence during much of that period the so-called Pax Americana was anything but peaceful. That’s because Washington’s foreign policy is essentially driven by imperialist objectives of control and domination, which requires a zero-sum modus operandi.
The US either has clients which it calls “allies” and “partners”; or it targets non-compliant nations for regime change. It therefore follows that under this American order-disorder, the Middle East has been a by-word for conflict, sectarianism and endless wars. Washington is the fountainhead of strife and destruction because of its pursuit of unilateral objectives to satisfy empire. The self-adulation and projection of “noble leader of free world, democracy and rule of law” is but a delusional inversion of reality by the US and its Western cronies, including the dutiful corporate media which function as a propaganda system.
By contrast, Russia’s geopolitics are driven by multilateralism and adherence to international law. Moscow has repeatedly proclaimed the principles of respecting national sovereignty, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter established in 1945. Russia’s foreign policy is not imperialist, it is mutualist. This can be seen in the way Russia, along with China and others, have galvanized numerous countries to cooperate for economic partnership and development. The corollary is that Moscow’s military doctrine is primarily based on defense. For the US and its imperialist relation to the world, its militarism is all about offense and aggression because its power relies on domination and subjugation of others to furnish its interests.
Sooner of later, however, even supposed allies of the US end up becoming distrustful of, and estranged from, Washington. The self-serving nature of American power necessarily involves duplicity and treachery. A case in point is the way the Trump administration has unceremoniously abandoned erstwhile Kurdish “allies” in Syria; or the way Washington browbeats supposed allies like Turkey when they step out of line.
Washington’s fecklessness seems to have become more apparent under the Trump administration. But that is not due to Trump per se. It is a manifestation of American hegemonic power on the wane. Such a policy is unsustainable and anathema to the needs of the Middle East and the rest of the world for cooperation, multilateralism, respect for sovereignty and diplomacy.
Russia’s world stature has grown in concert with the increasing relevance of the geopolitical vision it espouses and practices.
When President Vladimir Putin was greeted this week in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it was patently evident the high respect afforded to the Russian leader. That is in spite of the fact that Russia has staunchly supported the Syrian government to defeat a regime-change war, whose anti-government forces were backed by the Saudis and Emiratis. Their financial losses from sponsoring that disastrous war are no doubt colossal. But there was not a hint of chagrin this week from the Arab rulers towards Putin. Indeed, quite the opposite.
Russia has also stood firm in supporting Iran and its sovereign rights. The decades-long antagonism between Iran and the Saudis and other Persian Gulf Arab kingdoms is largely a result of the American policy of divide-and-rule. Despite Moscow’s support for Tehran, this was again clearly not a cause of animus from the Saudi and Emirati rulers.
In defending Syria – a longtime ally of Russia – Moscow has also warned Israel against further aggression. The installation of S-300 air defense systems in Syria is proof of Russia’s firmness. Yet Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu still maintains close personal relations with Putin. As with the Arab rulers, Israel may have opposing views to Russia’s, but at least they know where Moscow stands on geopolitical matters. That in turn makes for mutual respect and a willingness to negotiate.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is another example of a leader whose foreign policy objectives clashed with those of Russia over the war in Syria. Ankara backed the illegal regime-change campaign fomented by Washington and its NATO clients. Turkey, like the Sunni Arab regimes, lost its gamble. And it was Russia that caused that bitter loss when Putin ordered the military intervention from the end of 2015 to defend Moscow’s Syrian ally. The consistent principle is one of respect for sovereignty and international law. Eventually, all nations need to abide by that political principle, or else chaos, duplicity, treachery, and war prevail. Instead of America’s win-lose doctrine, Russia strives for win-win.
That is why Russia has been empowered to pull off a “diplomatic masterpiece” in Syria, as SCF writer Federico Pieraccini eloquently put it this week. The Syrian war is ending with Syria’s territorial integrity being restored thanks to Russia’s defensive military power and its diplomatic dexterity. Russia’s role as power broker in the Middle East is effective because it is respected by all – even by, at times, adversaries – due to its honest, consistent adherence to the principles of international law.