The timing is not merely coincidental. The shambolic policymaking of the Trump administration has thrown the Middle East into further chaos, while countries are increasingly viewing Russia as a source of stability.
The high respect afforded to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit this week to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates speaks of a new geopolitical reality in the region.
Both countries are traditional US allies, but it is Russia that appears to be the one held in higher regard.
Russia’s pragmatic policy of “talking with everyone” sees it maintaining good relations with a host of nations, notwithstanding that several of these nations are among themselves either estranged or implacable enemies.
Putin is hosted by the Saudi and Emirati monarchs despite the fact that Moscow has a growing alliance with Iran – the perceived Shia nemesis of the Sunni potentates in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Russia is a staunch defender of Syria which puts it at odds with an array Middle East states, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel, which have sponsored a proxy war to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Yet, in spite of this, Moscow has also attained close relations with Syria’s adversaries. It’s an impressive balancing act.
This is not just a matter of Russia sidling alongside everyone from an unscrupulous, expedient policy.
Moscow has criticized Israel for its air strikes on Syrian territory, warning it to back off.
Russia has also censored Saudi and other Gulf Arab states for hostility towards Iran and for blaming Tehran for sabotage attacks on shipping in the region without any evidence. Moscow has at times condemned the Saudi-led war on Yemen.
Russia’s foreign policy is principled and consistent. For nations it is historically aligned with, like Syria and Iran, it remains loyal in its strategic commitments.
A classic example is Russia’s military intervention from the end of 2015 to defend the Syrian nation from imminent defeat by Western, Nato and Arab-backed proxies.
Russia has consistently backed Iran in terms of upholding the 2015 international nuclear accord, thereby defying Washington’s bullying ultimatums for nations to boycott trading with Tehran.
Moscow’s policy demonstrated in the Middle East is an extension of its wider international outlook of supporting multilateralism and mutual cooperation with all nations.
We see that in the way Russia has been a keen supporter of China’s Belt and Road Initiative for promoting global economic partnership.
Russia is a linchpin for Eurasian economic development in which peace and prosperity are seen as mutual win-win outcomes from pursuit of respectful reciprocation.
This conduct of geopolitical relations is anathema to America’s domineering policy. Washington’s winner-takes-all approach to international relations necessarily divides the world into those who kowtow to American imperatives and those who are cast as enemies because they don’t kowtow. The former camp are euphemistically described as US “allies”, but they are essentially serfs and vassals for the gratification of American imperial interests.
The trouble is that such policy sooner or later runs into contradictions of its own making. Dividing-and-ruling the world can be advantageous to a point, as it was for many decades following WWII, during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
For the US militarised capitalist economy, zero-sum policy ensured lucrative profits, for a while. But sooner or later, the war economy and warmongering policies that underpin US geopolitical ambitions of dominance start to undermine its very own power.
Essentially, the profoundly unethical and criminal policies that promote US unilateral power become impossible to conceal, despite the massive systematic help of deceitful Western corporate media which function to sanitize and obscure the crimes underpinning US would-be dominance. Eventually, even supposed allies of the rogue superpower begin to become unnerved and anxious from the boundless perfidy.
The past week has provided an astounding eye-opener of the sheer recklessness and destructiveness of the US in the Middle East.
President Trump’s abandoning of Kurdish allies in Syria to the mercy of an onslaught by Turkey has left other American allies in the region shocked by the transactional treachery of Washington. Questions are being asked by Saudi rulers and in Israel about how reliable is their supposed protector, the US.
The Saudi ambassador to Britain is reported this week as saying that the House of Saud is “losing confidence” in the Trump administration and its erstwhile promises that it would defend the kingdom in the event of a war with Iran. The same misgivings apply in Israel.
This fearful distrust of the US ‘protector’ was compounded by the drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry centers last month. The Saudis and Americans blamed Iran, even though Tehran flatly rejected the accusations, and in spite of the fact that the attacks were claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The thing is, however, Washington balked at its accusations against Iran in terms of taking a military response. Just as well, for those accusations are probably false. But by the Trump administration’s own actions, its words are evidently all bark and no bite.
Over decades, the US has plied billions of dollars of weapons into Saudi Arabia, as with other countries across the Middle East. But paradoxically, those countries are today even more insecure and leery of Washington’s strategic intentions.
Since the US wars launched on Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two decades, the Middle East has become ever-more unstable and volatile. That is because American foreign policy is conducted on the basis of dominance which by definition involves aggression and military occupation.
America’s military doctrine is driven by confrontation, selling weapons to other countries as part of its policy of projecting power, which is in itself aggressive. Thus, the world under the sway of US power will always be prone to tensions, conflicts, war, and killing, because the bottomline is America’s warmongering corporate capitalism needs all that mayhem to make a financial killing.
Eventually, however, countries nominally allied with the US will end up reaping the bitter harvest that it sows.
That is why Russia is growing in stature as a leading power, especially in the Middle East. Western media may make cynical comments about Putin trying to make himself a “kingmaker” and “offering himself as a peacemaker,” but there is no need for this Russophobic cynicism.
Russia’s military doctrine and modern technology, such as the S-400 anti-missile system, is predicated on defense, not offense. This is the reverse of the American military doctrine. Hence, American so-called defense systems, like the Patriot, are inferior to Russian counterparts.
That difference revolves around the fundamental divergence between America’s hegemonic ambitions and Russia’s policy of pursuing multilateralism and partnership. That permits Russia to maintain relations and respect with all nations, even though it has priorities for certain allies. Nevertheless, the balanced policy enables nations to coexist and negotiate to overcome problems.
The Middle East needs more of Russia’s type of balanced diplomacy. The region is evidently responding to Moscow with respect, whereas Washington’s ruinous intrigues are seen with increasing contempt and repudiation.
Finian Cunningham is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively on international affairs.