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Russia's turnaround in the Middle East

Russian foreign policy in the region has benefited from a steady, nonideological focus as well as the missteps and neglect of other powers.
Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour (C), General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd R) and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (R) meet with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (2nd L) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (L) at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, November 14, 2013. Sisi hailed a new era of defence cooperation with Russia on Thursday during a visit by Russian officials, signalling Egyptian efforts to revive ties with an old ally and send a message to Washington after it suspended military aid. RE

Ukraine has briefly become a Near Eastern country for us. The failure of the European Union's hopes that an agreement on an association between Ukraine and the EU would be signed in Vilnius on Nov. 28 is regarded by all as a success for Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who fiercely fought against Ukraine's “departure” for the West. This success is now viewed against the backdrop of Moscow's active and successful approach in the Near East, and it adds to the feeling of Russia's power and influence in the international arena on the part of many Russian observers. Syria and Ukraine have little in common, except that Russia had been considered an obvious and irreversible “loser” in both places, but it turned out to be — at least for now — the winner.

However, truth be told, there is another parallel. Ukraine is actively being invited into the Customs Union — an association that Moscow is initiating in the territory of the former Soviet Union for the purposes of integration. A couple of weeks ago, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that it would be a good idea to invite Syria and Turkey into this organization so that the project would not look like a restoration of the USSR. But this, of course, was something of a political joke.

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