Russia’s regional role (in the Middle East)

The Daily Star, Lebanon: Editorial

The recent Russian movement in the region speaks not only of Putin’s desire to reassert Kremlin’s position in the area, but of U.S. failings here. But as long as it done with peaceful intentions then it is to be welcomed.

Traditionally, Russia tended to keep a low profile in the Middle East, keeping its commercial, political and military dealings discreet. However, as the mayhem in the region continues to spiral further and further out of control, and as opinion – on both the state level and among the populace – of Obama’s foreign policy here becomes more negative than that of any preceding U.S. administrations, Russia has seized upon an opportunity to re-establish its presence here.

This is true on Syria, with Russian channels mediating a potential peace conference to replace Geneva’s failings, and in Egypt, but also now in Lebanon. While the arrival of deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Beirut is ostensibly timed with a commemoration of Soviet-Lebanese relations, it is clearly motivated by other matters.

He met Friday with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, and with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, as well as head of the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc MP Mohammad Raad. But if Russia is to prove that its intentions are focused on helping to promote stability and reconciliation, it is imperative that Russian representatives meet with all sides.

Amid U.S. failings there is scope for Russia to live up to its role as a superpower and become a genuine peacemaker in the region. But to do so it must not rely on Cold War tactics of instilling fear and asserting its authority; it instead needs to foster an atmosphere of reconciliation.

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Categories: Europe, Russia

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