A dominant public narrative has been created in the United States and much of Europe that Russia is a “revisionist” power, seeking to overthrow the existing status quo, challenge the “rules-based order,” and generally act as a “spoiler” in international affairs—and in the lands of the former Soviet Union, there is a considerable element of truth in this portrayal.
In the greater Middle East, however, there is something seriously weird about this image of Russian behavior. In this region, over the past 20 years, it is in fact the United States that has acted as a disruptor of the existing status quo, and Russian opposition to U.S. policies on key issues has proved in retrospect to be objectively correct, from the point of view not only of Russia and of the region but also of the United States and the West.
Of course, Russian policies were designed to serve Russian interests. All the same, the fact that they turned out to correspond to Western interests as well was not purely accidental. These Russian policies were founded on an analysis by the Russian foreign-policy and security establishment of Middle Eastern states that has turned out to be correct in itself—and is also very close to those of many in the U.S. establishment.
Underlying Russian analysis is a perception that might be called anti-democratic but is more accurately characterized as a profound sense of the fragility of states and fear of chaos and civil war, coupled with deep skepticism about projects of rapid revolutionary change. This attitude has its roots in Russia’s own terrible experiences of the 20th century. As Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked to the New York Times in October 2003 concerning the results of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “There is no surprise for us about the situation that has taken shape, because we foresaw the development of the situation there just exactly as it is developing now. … How could one imagine a different course of events in a case where the regime is dismantled? Of course, statehood is destroyed. How can it be otherwise?”
Read the full article in Foreign Policy.