Russia and the Middle East
Towards a New Foreign Policy
by Talal Nizameddin
New York, N.Y.: St. Martin's Press, 1999. 296 pp. $49.95.
Reviewed by Gregg Rickman
Middle East Quarterly
Nizameddin, in a book based on his doctoral dissertation at the University of London, has written a fine documentary survey on the contentious, complicated tug-of-war between competing political/philosophical factions that lie behind the making of Russian foreign policy in the 1990s, both in the Middle East and in general. Nizameddin lists five factions as having contributed to Russian foreign policy in the 1990s. He aptly details the ideological camps, ranging from pro-Western radicals to extreme nationalists, and shows how power ebbed and flowed depending on the mood in Russia at the moment. Over time, Russian foreign policy went from a more Westernized cast in the aftermath of communism's collapse to a more nationalistic one as a result of the transition to capitalism.
But the author fails to convince when he argues that despite Russia's troubles at home, it still has a powerful presence abroad. True, Russia is still able to influence policy in the Middle East, but only marginally. Look more closely and Russia's dalliance with Iran, which Nizameddin sees as a strength, has worked against Russian interests; for example, it has prompted the U.S. government to insist on a gas pipeline through Turkey, and not Russia or Iran. U.S. sanctions against both Russia and Iran for their missile cooperation is another price. In fact, eclipsed by its neighbors, Russia now struggles to find its way in the Middle East. Note that Turkey and Iran, not Russia, vie for influence in Central Asia. In Iraq and in the Arab-Israeli peace process, Washington basically ignores Russia.
Related Topics: Russia/Soviet Union | Gregg Rickman | Fall 2000 MEQ
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