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Neither Russia nor China Could Fill a U.S. Void in the Middle East

11 25 1
15.09.2021

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 and America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have renewed debate over whether the United States should remain so deeply engaged militarily in the broader Middle East. These debates typically center on whether such a presence is needed to ensure the safe transit of oil out of the Persian Gulf, prevent terrorist attacks, or prevent a single power from dominating the region.

More recently, however, the topic of great-power competition among the United States, Russia, and China in the Middle East has increasingly moved to the forefront of such debates, and U.S. officials and policy analysts have begun raising the alarm over the possibility of Moscow or Beijing filling the void if Washington were to withdraw militarily from the region.

But such concerns are misguided. Neither Russia nor China is capable of filling a supposed U.S. void in the Middle East, nor do they desire to.

The 20th anniversary of 9/11 and America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have renewed debate over whether the United States should remain so deeply engaged militarily in the broader Middle East. These debates typically center on whether such a presence is needed to ensure the safe transit of oil out of the Persian Gulf, prevent terrorist attacks, or prevent a single power from dominating the region.

More recently, however, the topic of great-power competition among the United States, Russia, and China in the Middle East has increasingly moved to the forefront of such debates, and U.S. officials and policy analysts have begun raising the alarm over the possibility of Moscow or Beijing filling the void if Washington were to withdraw militarily from the region.

But such concerns are misguided. Neither Russia nor China is capable of filling a supposed U.S. void in the Middle East, nor do they desire to.

Moscow and Beijing have not outright challenged the U.S.-led security order in the region, because they benefit from it: It has provided the security umbrella for them to become more involved in the region without having to assume the costs of physically protecting their interests. Indeed, their ability to continue their low-cost maneuvering in the region would be undermined by a U.S. absence. In the Middle East, Russia and China are opportunists, not revisionists.

Russia and China have certainly sought to exploit U.S. exhaustion in the region, as well as the heightened regional........

© Foreign Policy


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