Russia continues to look for friends in the Middle East, as the country’s expeditions and interference in Ukraine has left President Vladimir Putin with strained Western ties and quite a bit of sanctions. Last November, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu signed an agreement with Pakistan’s defense minister Khawaja Asif giving both nations a friendly standing and the ability to run military exercises together in the name of defense. Russia also lifted a weapons export ban to Pakistan, saying that the two nations will continue to work together and focus on security. This comes only days after Russia lifted an embargo on defense exports to Iran. Now, Russia will be sending Iran S-300 surface to air defense missile systems.
Russia settles score with former Soviet Union enemies
The history of these embargos and restrictions of Middle East nations dates back to the Soviet Union days back in the 1970s when the Soviet Union was engaged in its campaign in Afghanistan. The fighting left bad blood, but as we approach 40 years since the Soviet Union’s Afghanistan campaign, why is Russia making up with its old enemies now? I think one of the easiest explanations to use for Russia’s thawed ties with Iran and Pakistan is the fact that with the US looking to ultimately leave the region, the power vacuum could create further unrest. Russia could be taking advantage of the US leaving by making up with old enemies in order to pave new exporting trade deals, oil deals in Middle East, and Middle East security.
Pakistan and Russia, for instance, have based their entire new agreement around security and the idea that both nations need to look out for each other in order to promote peace and prosperity. This includes weapons and military equipment exports to Pakistan and now the joint military exercises within the region.
Iranian deepening ties with Russia a worry US and Israel
The Middle East situation involving Russia, Iran, US and Israel is increasingly complicated. On one hand, the US and Iran have been working hard over the past several years on a nuclear weapons deal, which finally appears to have been mutually agreed upon on the basic terms. However, Russia and US ties are significantly strained due to Ukraine crisis and certainly Russia’s sudden remedy of ties with Iran is a cause of concern and frustration for US officials. Israel, on the other hand, has denounced the missile systems being exported to Iran, saying that their national security is at risk. However, the S-300 missile systems that Russia delivered to Iran are purely defensive weapons that protect against incoming attacks from foreign sources. The deal between Russia and Iran was signed back in 2007 and represented a $800 million deal between the two nations. Unfortunately, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev postponed the deal after pressure from Western nations to call the deal off. US officials such as Secretary of State John Kerry have denounced the deal and have voiced some of the potential dangers that the new Russia-Iran deal brings.
Overall, the recent repairing of ties between Russia and Middle East certainly seems suspicious. Russia could be conducting these deals as a way of rebuking US influence in the region and the hard work Americans have done to maintain cordial relations with Middle East nations. As US military continues to build up in Eastern Europe to counter the Russian military build up, one must be concerned with the fact that the Middle East could eventually be a dual ground for Russia and US. However, there is also the possibility that Russia is just trying to ruffle Western feathers and cause more headaches. Ultimately, trying to understand the reasoning and the timing of these deals with Iran and Pakistan is pure speculation. There are numerous explanations that would fit the bill, but ultimately, this is certainly an issue that the US will be monitoring. Russia is no longer trust worthy in the eyes of the West, as the country continues to promote unrest in Baltic region. Despite calls for cease fire in Ukraine, the fighting rages on and new Baltic region nations are continuing to be threatened by Russian military hardware on its boarders. It is imperative that the US continues to repair and maintain solid relations with Middle East nations, so as to not lose the region to Russian opinion and influence. With President Putin at the helm it is often difficult to understand entirely what the motives and explanations are behind his actions, but that is why the world must continue to be on alert and on call.