Russian Policy Toward the Middle East Under Putin: The Impact of 9/11 and The War in Iraq
By Robert O. Freedman
In analyzing Russian policy toward the Middle East under Putin and the impact of 9/11 and the war on Iraq on Russian policy, it is first necessary to note that only three countries in the region are of primary significance to Moscow, and these are Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Iran and Turkey border countries in Central Asia (Iran) and Transcaucasia (Iran and Turkey) which are seen as the "soft underbelly" of the Russian Federation, and Moscow has been quite concerned that Turkish and Iranian influence in the two regions could significantly compete with Moscow's own influence there. (1) At the same time Iran and Turkey are major military and economic trading partners of Russia, and Putin has sought to cultivate them to strengthen the Russian economy. Iraq, an erstwhile ally of the Soviet Union until the latter part of the Gorbachev era, retains importance for Russia because of its eight billion dollar debt to Moscow and for the expectation that Russian companies would be able to develop Iraq's extensive oil reserves.
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