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Cooperation on regional and global issues

9 - Relations with Russia on the Greater Middle East

Grade: B-
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 4/10
Total 11/20
Scorecard 2012: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2013: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (11/20)

The standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine has not translated into new antagonism on MENA issues. 

In 2014 Russia became effectively “a single issue country” – the bulk of its diplomatic energy was focused on Ukraine and on relations with the West in the context of European order. The Middle East played a smaller role than usual in Russia’s agenda.

The EU’s relations with Russia were equally focused on the eastern neighbourhood. But fears that Russia might intentionally try to become a “spoiler” to the EU’s policies in the Middle East did not come true. Rather, Moscow is sticking to its old policies, which, however, remain at odds with Europe’s stated values: while the West sees authoritarianism as cause of extremism, Russia sees it as a guard against it.

Russia continued to be an active and constructive member of the EU3+3 framework (Germany, France, the UK, China, Russia, and the US) in negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran. Moscow also made some efforts to step up its bilateral relations with Iran, but these have been met with scepticism in Tehran.

Russia is also supporting Western efforts to fight ISIS in Iraq, but it has not retreated from its pro-Bashar al-Assad position in its Syria policy. The EU has in the past tried to get Russia to exercise its influence on Assad in Syria, a request that Moscow has always rejected. This year, the EU’s own determination to see Assad removed has crumbled, making policy differences with Russia on Syria less urgent and dramatic.