GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Russia as a gravity pole of the GCC new foreign policy pragmatism
Paper Proposal Text :

For the last several years we have been witnessing a seemingly strange behavior on the GCC side: amid the aggravating fundamental divergence with Russia over the Syrian crisis developments and Iran issue the GCC leaders or ruling officials have been used to visit Moscow regularly being received there at the highest level. It was often likely a political gift on the GCC side despite what Russia had been doing in Syria. The last to the point visit was such of the Bahraini King early February, 2016. In all cases there was talking about all kinds of cooperation including the military one. Only the Saudis princes seemed to insist on some changes of the Russian approach to Syria as a precondition to a broader cooperation and larger Saudi investments in Russia. Most of the other GCC high-ranking guests in Moscow were likely to avoid overtly such a precondition appearently trying to implement a strategy of attraction aiming first at creating zones of common interests (economic, security-wise) implying exchange of some promised advantages to Russia against Moscow political and military steps in Syria and probably in some other conflict cases in the Gulf (Yemen, Iran).

In fact such a political model of the GCC behavior towards Russia proved to be a shape of a new GCC pragmatism. The main reasons behind it being first the widening gap in GCC relations with the USA in particular in the aftermath of the so-called chemical deal (September, 2013) perceived by the Syrian moderate opposition and the GCC countries as the Obama administration betrayal of the Sunni Arabs and broader shift in the American strategy and the need to respond to the Russian increasing presence in the region mainly on the Shia (Iranian) side. In other words it was a model stemmed from the need to find a balance for the GCC between the weakening US in the region and the forcefully self-imposing Russia (through Syria). One of the reasons of the GCC strategy being to hamper and slow down the Russian-Iranian rapprochement.

The GCC approach to Russia appeared workable for one more reason which had little to do with the developments in the region namely, the Ukrainian crisis where the Russia role was strongly condemned by the US and the European Union. Russia tried to turn to the Gulf in search for necessary investments but has not much succeeded in this. However, with the implications of the Ukrainian crisis overshadowing the Syrian one at least from a global perspective, and with Western sanctions being imposed on Russia, the GCC countries have reduced their interaction with Russia to the economic field in order to avoid potential risks while leaving room for eventual political deals in the region. The ongoing Russian air operation in Syria seems, however, to have substantially complicated the relationship with the GCC members.

As a fact Iran is emerging for now as more preferable Russia partner in the region. And that for a number of pragmatic reasons among which the geographical location near to Russia, the common engagement to the Caspian sea resources sharing, the Iran capability to impact the Central Asian and Caucasus states in immediate neighborhood of Russia, the common approach to the Syrian crisis, the shared anti-Western rhetoric, the growing understanding as to the gas supplies to Asia and Europe in the future etc. Therefore Moscow appears resolved to strengthen its relations with Tehran under any scenarios while attempting to balance it with the Sunni bloc in the Gulf .