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Putin’s Russia is now a Middle Eastern country

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BERLIN – Much has been made of Russia’s pivot to China as a danger to the U.S.-led world order, and the Kremlin has done its best to play up these fears in an effort to keep Russia punching above its weight. In reality, though, Russia has pivoted more successfully toward the Middle East, where President Vladimir Putin feels at home among a particular cohort of authoritarian rulers.

Last week’s annual session of the Valdai Discussion Club, Putin’s favorite platform for airing foreign policy ideas, was dedicated to “The Dawn of the East and the World Political Order.” The intellectual debate centered, of course, on China and Russia’s strategic relationship to it. But the underlying problem there is that Russia doesn’t have enough to offer China economically to be considered an equal partner.

Russia can be a major energy supplier; it can also provide its vast territory and use its strength in the Arctic to build transport corridors for Chinese trade. There are, however, competing options for China. Besides, Russia isn’t an irreplaceable market for Chinese goods, and it doesn’t have much valuable technology to transfer.

That raises the question of how Russia can leverage its military might, its one major advantage as a global power, to make a partnership with China more equal. And that’s where Russia’s Middle Eastern strategy comes in.

In a contribution for the Valdai Club, foreign policy expert Timofei Bordachev wrote: “There is little doubt that Russia will remain a predominantly military power in keeping with the pattern formed by its history. This runs in the blood and is part of its bedrock national tradition. Besides, the projection of Russian military capabilities in the........

© The Japan Times