Just double checked what this term "middle east" means (apparently Cyprus, the Asian part of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, the countries of the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait), and Egypt and Libya).
Does anyone have thoughts on how Russia relates with the middle east?
This question is precipitated by reading in the new issue of Bitter Lemons this sentence "Israeli government analysts sensed differences among Quartet members, with the US adhering as expected to a stronger anti-Hamas stance, the EU hinting at a possible indirect dialogue (imitating the Lebanese Hizballah model) and Russia viewing Hamas as a legitimate political, rather than terrorist, entity."
Russia is not condemning Hamas the way the EU and US are. Russia has been Iran's greatest ally in acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet, Russia has been warring against Muslim separatists for a decade now. Russians are more concerned about Islamic extremism than most people in the world (according to this poll).
These seem contradictory to me. And it strikes me that with all the hubbub about Russia being a blocker in referring Iran to the Security Council nobody has really come closer to understanding their position. To understanding Russia.
A good part of what is perceived as a difference of opinion is the Russians fomenting conflict for reasons of self-aggrandizement. As The Economist writes "There are differences of interest, even over Iran. For the Russians, the crisis represents an opportunity. As Bobo Lo, of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, puts it, Russia has a taste for “controlled tension”: diplomatic situations short of conflict, in which Russia's membership of the UN Security Council gives it extra clout, as in the run-up to the Iraq war. That influence is diluted if the Russians merely go along with the Americans and Europeans, or if the tension dissipates quickly."
That seems to be a reasonably satisfying explanation.
[ 07 February 2006: Message edited by: prowsej ]