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The Russian Federation’s geopolitics

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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In a now famous speech delivered at the Conference on Security, held in Munich in 2007, Vladimir Putin harshly clarified the structural determinants of his foreign policy.

Let list them briefly: according to President Putin, Russia does not tolerate in any way the encirclement that the Atlantic Alliance carried out and still carries out at the edges of the old Warsaw Pact.

Putin is not even convinced – and his argument cannot be faulted – that the network of sensors, radars, ICBM missiles currently operating around the Federation is bound to manage “instability in the greater Middle East”.

Moreover, Putin believed, and still believes, that the international system should only be based on the lawfulness of the United Nations and the other global agencies rather than on NATO and EU only, as the Russian President said to the Italian Minister of Defence at that time.

Or on the coalitions of the willing that had unleashed – with adverse and unexpected effects – the US (and Saudi) actions in the First and Second Gulf War, by wiping out a Russian traditional ally, namely Iraq, to create the void of bands, gangs and regional powers on a territory turned into “no man’s land”, for oil in particular.

Putin still remembers when the Head of the US provisional government in Baghdad created a system for road signalling which was very similar to Boston’s.

For the Russian President, the American unipolarity is the warning sign of the strategic void at the edges of empires, with incalculable negative effects for the future strategy of global leaders, even the United States themselves.

Furthermore, again in Munich, Putin stated he was extremely interested in an agreement with the United States for the reduction of the ICBM missile systems, to be later extended also to other regional players.

It had to be a negotiation to be carried out in strictly bilateral terms and within the UN bodies, and not delegated to other regional alliances.

Hence a “conventionalization” of confrontation which, for the Russian President, avoids the constant nuclear threat and allows a significant reduction in military spending, which will no longer be targeted to an impossible bilateral and final post-cold war confrontation, but to the control and reduction of the peripheral clashes of the States placed in the Rimland, in the peripheries of the old opposing blocs.

Once again there is special attention paid by Russia to the destructive effects of a future unipolar world: no power alone can control the world but, if it does so, it generates polarizations paving the way for a terrible war.

In those years the Iran case was evident.

For Russia, the future world must be multipolar, especially at a time when the United States have lost their geo-economic primacy and hence, basically, globalization is over. Indeed, it must be put to an end.

And Europe? Will it wait for the crumbs of the TTIP, namely the still secret Treaty with the United States, to believe it can expand its economy or will it begin to really think big, which, indeed, should be its role at global geoeconomic level?

Finally, after some very harsh comments on the US behaviour, in Munich Putin said that the undue pressures to export “democracy” were, in fact, bad forms of interference, together with international NGOs, which produced the opposite effect.

This means weak and viable States which are at the mercy of expensive international aid, as well as Trojan horse of multinational companies that subsequently generate further social tensions which, in some cases, lead to the rooting of Islamist terrorism.

An objective and well-grounded analysis which – with Machiavellianism and the harshness of the Russian decision-makers, from Peter the Great to the current time – avoids the rhetoric of fierce “tyrants” by nature, or the curse of religious ideologies ad memoriam which only lead to jihadists’ hegemony.

In Munich as currently, courage was needed to create a linkage between the global economic disasters and jihadist terrorism, as well as between globalization, unipolar policies, and social and political destabilization in the world.

For Vladimir Putin, in substance, the unipolar world ended with the crisis of what we might define “the first globalization”, cornered by the expansion of China, the BRICS and the other new centres of independent economic and political development which, over time, saw the United States be bogged down in a financial crisis that was directly derived from the geopolitical and financial overstretch of the only winner of the Cold War.

Today, we realize that some of the Russian President’s prophecies have come true: China is expanding geo-economically beyond its borders, both with the One Road, One Belt initiative, which will lead to the economic development and geostrategic unification of the whole Asian Heartland, and with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is bound to turn from an “Asian EEC” into a real “Eastern NATO”.

The United States, with current President Obama and his successor after the elections, are leaving the Middle East to its fate. This, however, will also be the end of Europe.

The traditional American pendulum swinging between the “necessary power” to be spent everywhere and the “house on the hill”, between T. Roosevelt and Monroe doctrine of the ‘kitchen garden”, to be fully exploited up to its limits.

Even Israel, which with Prime Minister Netanyahu has refused a meeting with President Obama in Washington on March 18, has resumed its ties with Russia.

The Knesset, namely the Jewish State’s Parliament, paid a visit to Crimea early February, while the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has expressed his dissatisfaction with the new bilateral agreement between Israel and Turkey.

Israel follows its own Global Strategy, which is the repetition of the old divide and rule strategy in the Arab region, typical of the Cold War, and its natural ambition to become a regional power, now that the Islamic world discovers itself at war with all its many souls and powers.

Currently Israel closely monitors the defensive infrastructure along its Syrian border and, while at the beginning of hostilities, it thought that Bashar al-Assad was the ”weak link” of the pro-Iranian axis, the subsequent evolution of the strategic framework in Syria has meant that Israel has no longer plans to support the so-called “moderate rebels” – a stance at the time passively inherited from the United States.

Also the United States, with NATO, believed that the Russian support for the Arab Syrian Army would be technologically and strategically irrelevant but the reality, with the Baath covert networks already operating in Raqqa, the “Caliphate’s capital city”, and Assad’s forces a few kilometres away from that city and now placed all around Aleppo, the key to the link between Isis and Turkey, shows us a very different course of events.

With its actions in Syria, the Russian Federation has proved to be a credible opponent of the Atlantic Alliance, while NATO is now deprived of a strategy in the Middle East and the Maghreb region going beyond the old peacekeeping rhetoric.

Hence, a new Russian-Israeli axis is likely to materialize, also thanks to the Russian and Chinese investment in the Israeli hi-tech sector, which is the most advanced in the world.

A bond which, as already happened, fills the gaps left by the old North American hegemony, which now persists in maintaining pressures around China, so as to limit its terrestrial and maritime power projection, and encircle the Russian Federation, as in a resurgence of useless Cold War.

The Philippines have offered six new bases to the United States, while China has built its new base in Djibouti and America is establishing a network of Special Forces that, starting from Eurasia and China, is global for its outreach and use.

In this regard, it is worth recalling John Maynard Keynes’ witty remark according to which “the difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones”.

The issue arises from Eurasia’ encirclement – that the Americans are pursuing – or from the Russian use of the Eurasian Heartland as hub for the expansion and hegemony of the new Russia (and current China led by Xi Jinping).

Today Putin is the most careful follower of the American geopolitician Spykman, one of the masters of the USSR containment, which attached priority to the “edges” of the world’s great continental land masses.

Furthermore, today both China and Russia tend to expand onto their “near abroad”, with a view to opposing the US unilateral order, both by means of the economy, considering China’s gradual relinquishment of its role as first buyer of US Treasury bonds, and with Russia’s “conquest” of the Middle East nerve centre.

Both new powers, which want to become the reference poles of a new multipolar world, are divesting dollars and buying gold, while now the current domestic imbalance in world markets enables China to sign contracts denominated in yuan-renminmbi with emerging countries and enables Russia to sell oil and gas to the small “third” powers and to China itself, thus offsetting the embargo imposed by the United States and Great Britain.

Hence a new distribution of world strategic polarities can be imagined in the near future.

It is an axis going from Russia, the Western strong point of the new Chinese Silk Road towards the Middle East, and the European Union, so as to oppose the pro-US Sunni axis in Syria, with a new independent role played by Israel.

Russia is still afraid of the US Global Strike, with or without NATO support.

Moreover, as early as the Munich Conference of 2007, Russia has attached essential importance to the decoupling between the Atlantic Alliance’s power, which Putin sees as part of the US global strategy and projection of US independent power.

Furthermore, the Russian Federation will at first be connected with India in a stable way, so as to expand its own international market, and later with the EU, which is currently undergoing a process of strategic separation from the United States, if and when Europe implements an effective foreign policy. Later it will head for the areas not yet penetrated by the Western bloc.

These areas are the Arctic, and the Russian share of the Antarctic, namely the primary aim of the Russian new maritime doctrine until 2020, and finally its “near abroad” that Russia sees destabilized by the doctrine of the US “colour revolutions”.

Moreover, NATO expansion is regarded by Russia as the primary threat to Russian strategic interests, in the new military doctrines followed by the Russian Armed Forces.

Hence destabilizing the Rimland of the great continental aggregates to directly hit Russia or China? Are Italy and the European Union really interested in doing so? I do not think so.

For the Russian strategic doctrine, a particular factor is the cultural and symbolic aspect.

Eurasianism is the mainstay of Russia’s geocultural issue.

The Soviet world has always seen cultural continuity between Western Europe and the “Third Rome” which, in the last Tzars’ political theology, was heir to the genuine tradition of a betrayed and forgotten West, in its deep and spiritual roots.

Even the Bolshevik revolution, long after Peter I and Tsar Alexander II, preserved the myth of equalizing, also violently, old Russia and its natural link with the Western spirit, merged with the popular and “oriental” traditions of the Narod, the Russian “people”, seen as the spiritual root of the Nation, of its specificity, but also of its heritage of merger between East and West.

Therefore, today, the philosophical Eurasia is a cultural and strategic model of autonomy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, an attempt at cultural interconnection between the Eurasian peninsula and the Slavic Heartland.

All this, with a view to creating a geo-cultural and military “environment”, referring to a Russia which is still a great power capable of performing its function as a bridge between nations and traditional geopolitical areas, through the Russian spirit and its cultural autonomy.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Analysing the Russia Report: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Ernest A. Reid

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The long-awaited Russia Report has finally been released by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee. However, whether it has lived up to all of its anticipants’ expectations is rather a matter of debate. While countless media pundits and pseudo-experts on both sides are already caught up in a frenzy of harvesting it for out-of-context quotes to aid them in their battles against Russia or Britain, Conservatives or Labour, Putin, Johnson or Corbyn, political scientists and security analysts are more likely to find the Report lacking in objectivity and rather revealing Britain’s political plans than making any significant contribution to the existing knowledge on Russia.

First of all, it is necessary to point out that the Report is not an impartial piece of analysis but rather a biased text that seems to use a number of framing techniques in order to promote certain agenda. It begins with an outline of a fairly one-sided “Us vs Them” narrative, in the spirit of Teun van Dijk’s “ideological square,” of selfless Britain extending the helping hand to malicious Russia just for Vladimir Putin to fool the West over and over again. While mentioning the death of former double agent Alexander Litvinenko in late 2006 (allegedly organised by the Russian state) as the moment of Russia’s metamorphosis into an “established threat,” the distinguished authors seem to omit the “Spy Rock” scandal which had revealed Britain’s less-than-friendly spy activity in Russia earlier that year. In the same fashion, it is Moscow (rather than Washington) that believes in the “might is right” world order, “flouting the Rules Based International Order” is a privilege that cannot be bestowed upon non-Western democracies and the zero-sum game concept is, apparently, exclusive to the foreign policy decision-making of the Kremlin, which seems to be intent on “damaging the West” because it’s “good for Russia.” Moreover, the authors attribute Russia’s view of NATO and EU having “a far more aggressive posture towards it than they do in reality” to “paranoia” rather than the military build-up along their borders with Russia, regular military exercises in the region and the economic sanctions.

Hence, with the aid of rather primitive framing tools the introduction sets a very subjective tone for the rest of the Report and has more in common with an average article in The Economist than with a serious government document. However, this is hardly surprising taking into account the line-up of “witnesses” among whom are an American journalist who has indeed worked for The Economist and Washington Times and has been a staunch critic of Russia, a British writer whose books may well be mistaken for pulp fiction with titles such as Spies, Lies and How Russia dupes the West, leaving little to the imagination, and an American-British businessman who has been convicted on charges of tax evasion in Russia and has been one of the initiators of the infamous Magnitsky Act, as well as two essentially more respectable gentlemen who nevertheless are not particularly known for a neutral stance on Russia either. Unfortunately, the quality of sources also varies significantly across the Report, ranging from the undisputedly reputable GCHQ to the likes of BuzzFeed and vague references. All of the above means that one must apply a strong discursive filter when reading the Report in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In spite of its ontologically anti-Russian angle embedded within the introduction, the Report does nevertheless make a number of correct (albeit obvious) observations. Among them are the “inheritances from the USSR and its status as a victor of the Second World War” in the form of the nuclear weapons and permanent seat on the UN Security Council as some of Russia’s primary strengths. The report also notes how Russia’s “large and powerful” armed forces and heavily-resourced intelligence services, as well as “lack of strong independent public bodies and the fusion of government and business” (i.e. centralised power) allow it to “leverage all its intelligence, military and economic power at the same time,” which gives Moscow a significant strategic (i.e. speed) advantage over Britain with its less centralised and more cumbersome bureaucracy. The Report also identifies some of Russia’s weaknesses, such as its relatively small population, weak economy and “lack of reliable partners or cultural influence outside of the former USSR.” The Report also does a good job at defining Russia’s “relatively limited” aims in terms of playing the dominant role in its traditional sphere of influence (former USSR) and keeping its current leadership intact.

Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that a substantial part of the Report is dedicated to recycling the mainstream media’s standard anti-Russian propaganda schemata and regurgitating the already-voiced UK government positions on Russia’s alleged complicity in Litvinenko’s assassination, Salisbury incident, 2016 US elections outcome, failed Montenegro coup, Brexit and even the Scottish referendum. However, the Report does also introduce some new information, such as GCHQ reports of GRU actors “orchestrating phishing attempts” against a number of Government departments and “indiscriminate and reckless cyber-attacks targeting public institutions, businesses, media and sport,” as well as apparent “links between serious and organised crime groups and Russian state activity,” which certainly are points of concern that must be addressed by Her Majesty’s Government.

Unfortunately, the findings such as the aforementioned revelations are rather scarce, as much of the new information provided to the Committee by GCHQ and other Agencies has been redacted. For instance, when assessing the potential connection between “bots and trolls” and the alleged Russian interference in the EU referendum the Committee had apparently contacted MI5, requesting evidence, and the Agency’s response, as documented in the Report, was as follows: “MI5 initially provided just six lines of text. It stated that ***, before referring to academic studies.” In the same fashion, the section discussing instrumentalisation of GCHQ and SIS for open source research ends with “However, we have found *** which suggests that ***. ***.” While such heavy redaction may well be necessary for security reasons, they nevertheless obfuscate the essence of the Report and reduce its potential utility as a credible source.

Apart from the section on cyber security there are also sections on “Disinformation and Influence campaigns,” which reinforces the idea that any narrative contrary to that of the Western media is “disinformation” (e.g. RT and Sputnik), and on “Russian expatriates,” which gives relatively accurate description of the “Londongrad” phenomenon whereby the UK’s lax financial regulations of the previous decades have resulted in Britain becoming a “laundromat” for illicit finances of various Russian businessmen who have come to be “well integrated into the UK business and social scene” by co-opting a variety of people — from PR specialists and lawyers to members of the House of Lords — into their schemes.

However, what is of greater interest are a number of initiatives that seem to be explicitly and implicitly promoted in this document, as they may well be implemented in due course. First of all, one can observe a series of statements about the GCHQ, SIS, MI5, MI6 and NCA being under-resourced, both financially and personnel-wise, especially in regard to their Russia desks. Also, a notion of the Agencies seemingly avoiding taking the lead and feeling somewhat secondary in terms of the responsibility for “the active defence of the UK’s democratic processes” seems to be implied several times throughout the Report. These recurring themes suggest that one of the Report’s key goals is to secure more funding for the Agencies, so that they are able to launch new recruitment campaigns and expand their Russia-related operations, and to potentially give the Agencies more powers. Another recurring theme is the cumbersome bureaucracy, which seems to impede Britain’s capacity for rapid response, and the need for “greater cohesion,” which suggests that another aim of the Report may well be to initiate a process of de-bureaucratisation (in respect of the Intelligence sector) and maybe even centralisation of power to some degree.

The Report is also apparently promoting tighter control in regards to social media companies (requirement for social media companies to co-operate with MI5) and firmer grip on the UK business community and even the Lords (e.g. potential introduction of an equivalent of US Foreign Agents Registration Act is mentioned rather unequivocally), not to mention highlighting the issue of Russian media outlets in the UK (RT in particular). We may therefore expect to see a McCarthyist-style witch hunt that would target anyone with “Russian connections,” potential “Kremlin agents” — from the usual suspects such as RT and wealthy Russians to British politicians, lawyers and businesspersons of all sorts. Most important of all, the Report seems to advocate for a more aggressive/offensive strategy towards Russia — from development of stronger Cyber Offensive capabilities and curbing of the Russian influence in the former USSR to pressuring countries with moderate and friendly stances towards Russia to review their foreign policy programs (e.g. France is mentioned several times throughout the Report and is portrayed as a victim of Russia unwilling to confront its alleged aggressor) and “leading international action” against Russia’s influence elsewhere in the world alongside the US, with the post-Salisbury purge of Russian diplomats portrayed as somewhat of a benchmark and a diplomatic success.

Finally, as far as dialogue is concerned, there is an acknowledgement of the need for “limited channels of communication with the Russian government,” “direct conversations” as means of reducing “the risk of miscommunication and escalation of hostilities” and utilising “opportunities to de-conflict military activities in areas where both the UK and Russia have active military presences.” However, the Report rules out “any public move towards a more allied relationship with Russia at present.” Furthermore, with Whitehall’s long-term strategy to develop “a Russia that chooses to co-operate, rather than challenge or confront” being mentioned more than once makes one wonder if a gradual regime change strategy is not completely off the table.

All in all, the Russia Report has not revealed anything new in terms of the official UK stance on Russia and has rather reinforced the previously voiced positions of HMG. However, it has revealed a number of initiatives, which, if implemented, may not only decrease any influence Moscow may currently have within the UK, but may well mean a new hybrid offensive against Russia, which is highly likely to lead to overstraining of resources on both sides and further deterioration of Russo-British relations.

From our partner RIAC

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Russia’s Troubles with Its “String of Pearls”

Emil Avdaliani

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An important part of Russia’s grand strategy in terms of foreign policy is its purposeful creation and management of conflict zones across the post-Soviet space. This has to do with the battle Russia is fighting with the West over the borderlands—i.e., the regions that adjoin Russia from the west and south.

Maintaining the 11 buffer states around Russia (excluding the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) is a cornerstone of the Kremlin’s foreign policy against Western military and economic encroachment. The Russians knew that because of their country’s low economic attractiveness, the South Caucasus states would inevitably turn to Europe. The same was likely to occur with Moldova and Ukraine on Russia’s western frontier, as their geographical proximity to and historical interconnections with Europe render them particularly susceptible to the West’s economic and military potential.

To prevent Western economic and military penetration, the Kremlin has deliberately fomented various separatist conflicts. This policy has been successful so far, as the EU and NATO have refrained from extending membership to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

However, Russia now faces a different problem: its long-term vision for the separatist regions is becoming increasingly unrealistic. While in the first years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia had to manage breakaway conflicts only in small and poor Georgia and Moldova, Moscow’s responsibilities had increased significantly by the late 2010s.

Following the Ukraine crisis, Donetsk and Luhansk became part of Russia’s “separatist empire.” One could also add Syria to the list. The latter’s inclusion might be surprising, but considering the level of Russian influence there and the stripping away of many of Damascus’s international contacts, the war-torn country is essentially now fully dependent on Russia.

With Syria and Donbas on the roster, the Kremlin now has to manage a range of territories that rely almost entirely, in both the military and the economic senses, on Russia—but that are also geographically dispersed, economically disadvantageous, and geopolitically vulnerable. Even the conflict around Nagorno Karabakh, in which Russia is not militarily involved, is under the geopolitical influence of the Kremlin.

This means that at a time when economic problems resulting from the pandemic, Western sanctions, and the lack of reforms are looming large on the Russian home front, Moscow has to pour yet more money into multiple separatist actors spread across the former Soviet space, as well as Syria. Moscow’s broader strategy of managing separatist conflicts is therefore under increasing stress.

It is more and more difficult for the Kremlin to maneuver across so many diverse conflicts simultaneously. At times, participants have tried to play their own game independently from Moscow. Kyiv and Chisinau, for example, have considered constraining the breakaway territory of Transnistria, and Moscow—which has no direct land or air route (Kyiv would likely block the latter)—can do little about it. In Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian forces stand by and watch as NATO exercises take place on Georgian soil—an indication that despite Russia’s military presence, the West is continuing to expand its military support for Georgia.

Geopolitical trends indicate that Russia’s long-term “separatist” strategy to stop Western expansion in the former Soviet space is losing its effectiveness. While it is true that Moscow stopped its neighbors from joining the EU and NATO, its gamble that those breakaway regions would undermine the pro-Western resolve of Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine has largely failed. Although Russia remains militarily predominant, Western expansion via the powerful weapon of economic influence is proving to be more efficient.

Nor can the Russian leadership solve the problem of its failure to entice states around the world to recognize the independence of breakaway states. For instance, in the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, only Syria, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru have extended them recognition—not a prominent set of states from a geopolitical point of view. This trend is not likely to change anytime soon. Moscow simply does not have sufficient resources—and in any case, US laws withholding financial aid from states that recognize the independence of separatist territories throughout the former Soviet space remain a major disincentive.

Nor does Russia have any long-term economic vision for the breakaway states. Dire economic straits have inevitably caused populations to flee toward abundant medical, trade, and educational possibilities. Usually these are territories from which the separatists initially tried to break away. The Kremlin has failed to transform those entities into secure and economically stable lands. Crime levels have been on an upward trajectory, too, as high-level corruption and active black markets have undermined the effectiveness of Moscow’s spending.

Over the past several years, there have been hints in the media about rising discontent within the Russian political elite on how the breakaway territories (plus Syria) are being run. Questions have been raised about how Russian money is being spent and about the increasingly predatory nature of the separatist (plus Syrian) political elites, which are focused on extracting as much economic benefit as they can from Moscow.

This situation is similar to the state of affairs in the late 1980s, just prior to the Soviet collapse. At that time, members of the Soviet elite started to realize that Moscow had become little more than a supplier to Soviet republics that had grown more and more predatory as corruption skyrocketed and production levels sank. The result was the Soviet dissolution.

The Soviet level of endowment to the republics was far higher than it is now, but a similar pattern is emerging. Moscow has to cope with domestic economic troubles, “disobedience” from separatist leaders, and problematic relations with the West. These challenges make it increasingly difficult for Moscow to pull the strings in multiple separatist regions at once. Even in Syria, the Kremlin’s spending is occasionally questioned by Russian analysts and politicians. The Russian elite has grown less willing to provide direct economic benefit to the separatists, as the return is too marginal to warrant the expense.

Author’s note: First published in BESA Center

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Russia marks 15 years of its membership in OIC

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On June 30, 2020, the Russian Federation marked the 15th anniversary of its joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference (presently the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), as an observer.

Russian and foreign politicians, as well as the leadership of the OIC, took part in a videoconference organized on the occasion by the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The participants discussed a range of important issues, including the development of political dialogue and across-the-board cooperation between Russia and the countries of the Islamic world. They also underscored the significance of Russia’s joining the OIC in 2005 as an observer.

However, the extensive preparatory work, carried out over several years ensuring the success of the Russian bid to join the organization as an observer has been largely ignored.

One aspect of that preparatory work was the need to ease tensions and explain the real meaning of the events in the North Caucasus, where the Russian Federation had to deal with a large-scale conspiracy by international terrorist organizations and a maze of anti-Russian forces supporting those organizations.

The February 2004 visit to Saudi Arabia by the first president of the Chechen Republic, Akhmat Kadyrov, who led a delegation of public and religious figures representing Russia’s North Caucasus republics, was a significant part of that preparatory work. 

The prospect of such a visit was discussed by President Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Abdullah on September 3, 2003.

However, the whole idea faced serious hurdles due, among other things, to the presence in Saudi Arabia of opponents of our rapprochement, who were influenced by anti-Russian forces and criticized Moscow’s policies in the North Caucasus.

The Saudi Foreign Minister, Faisal Al-Saud, told me, as Russia’s Ambassador to the Kingdom, that “the fate of the visit is in the hands of Crown Prince  Abdullah,” who was then the de facto leader of the country (King Fahd was seriously ill and was virtually incapacitated).

After a tense, over two-hour-long discussion of the issue with the Crown Prince, he gave the visit the go-ahead, adding that all members of the delegation and accompanying persons would, without exception, be treated as “personal guests of the King of Saudi Arabia” and placed in the official government residence.

Upon his arrival in Saudi Arabia, Akhmat Kadyrov met with top members of the Saudi government, including the foreign minister and ministers of the economic bloc, the leadership of the OIC, the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, and local public and religious leaders.

Akhmat Kadyrov’s excellent knowledge of the Arabic language and the intricacies of Islamic culture and his frankness eventually broke the ice of mistrust and contributed to the success of negotiations on Russia’s accession to the OIC.

Morocco’s ex-Foreign Minister Abdul Waheed Belkaziz, who served as the OIC Secretary General between 2000 and 2005, and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Saud, who organized a meeting in Jeddah of representatives of OIC member countries to present weighty arguments in favor of the importance of Russia’s joining the alliance, played a major role in establishing a new climate of friendship between Russia and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. During the meeting we agreed to amend the IOC Charter so that it would allow Russia to join the organization as an observer.

Today, our cooperation is many-sided and productive. It is really imperative for us to bear in mind our previous experience of friendly interaction and to give credit to our partners, including the Saudis, who played such an important role in opening up new opportunities for cooperation between Russia and the Arab, Islamic world.

From our partner International Affairs

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