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Studies 15 December, 2015

Russia and the Arab Spring: Changing Narratives and Implications for Regional Policies

Maxim Suchkov

​Political analyst focusing on Russian and American foreign policy in the Middle East and the post-Soviet space. He is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Russia Pulse and expert of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). He is also an Associate Professor at Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University’s School of International Relations and a Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies in the Russian North Caucasian city of Pyatigorsk.

Abstract

The Arab Spring was a milestone for contemporary Middle Eastern history. The global phenomenon not only transformed the Arab world from within, but also challenged the regional status of major external players, including Russia. For its part, Russia has been critical of the nature of the “Arab awakening” from its very beginning. Moscow perceived the uprisings as another surge of West-inspired movements set to topple unwanted governments similar to those that took place in the post-Soviet space in the mid-2000s. Russia’s narrative of events, however, has become more nuanced over time. The rise of Islamists – both moderate and radical – shifted Russia’s focus to other issues important for the country’s national security. This paper analyzes Russia’s changing narrative of the Arab Spring, the overall context within which these narratives were being made, and the sources of shifting perceptions. It will also examine implications that the Arab Spring had for Russian strategy in the Middle East, and discuss Moscow’s dilemmas in dealing with regional and external actors.

To read this Research Paper in full as a PDF, please click here or on the icon above. An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the ACRPS Russo-Arab Relations Conference, held in Doha on May 23-24, 2015.

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