This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Russia has not (yet) joined the US-led coalition against ISIS, and its official spokespersons have not spared their criticism of the coalition’s management of the struggle. What are the roots of Russia’s policy? The war against ISIS is Russia’s current bargaining chip. Moscow is apparently increasingly aware that it should try to achieve an understanding with the Western powers that will lift the sanctions regime and implement an arrangement in Ukraine – in exchange for Russian participation in the struggle against ISIS. Whether a move in the direction of a tradeoff between Russia and the West is taking shape beyond the public discussion of the matter will soon become apparent. In any case, it seems that the Middle East, with the complex challenges it presents, is presenting Russia with opportunities as well as risks.
Not all the countries considered potential partners in the coalition fighting ISIS are eager to take part in the struggle. Russia is one of them. Although its participation could be expected, Russia has not (yet) joined the US-led coalition, and its official spokespersons have not spared their criticism of the coalition’s management of the struggle. What are the roots of Russia’s policy?
Russia’s current international position is far from comfortable. At this time, its leadership is searching for an honorable exit, perhaps along with political and economic achievements, from two regions heading the international agenda: Ukraine and the Middle East. Both of these crisis areas have put Russia in a prolonged confrontation against the West, and in the case of Ukraine, an especially bitter one. From Russia’s perspective, the West – i.e., the US – initiated the crisis in Ukraine that has cast Russia in a difficult position. Indeed, despite its denials Russia, has played an active role in this East European crisis, and its involvement has caused it concrete damage. The ceasefire in Ukraine is shaky, the risk of renewed escalation is high, and despite Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine has severed itself from Moscow’s sphere of influence. The last word on the matter has not yet been said, and Russia is still expected to exert more pressure on Ukraine to bring it back under its influence, but to date, Russia’s plans to reclaim its influence in the area of the former Soviet Union have been disrupted.
Furthermore, Western countries have imposed punitive economic sanctions on Russia given its efforts to preserve its influence in Ukraine. The sanctions have proven fairly painful and visibly effective, and additional sanctions are expected if there is no change in Russian policy in this sphere. Particularly irritating for Russia is the continuing slide in oil prices. According to Russia, this is a result of American policy, and if the trend continues, it will cause substantive damage to the faltering Russian economy. It is therefore a significant Russian interest to find a solution to the crisis, without having to concede the geopolitical interests guiding its behavior in Ukraine and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union.
Click here for the full article in its original form