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What's behind Russia's Mideast strategy?

Russia's shrewd policy moves in the Middle East have allowed it to make inroads in unexpected places, such as Egypt and Bahrain.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) attend a welcoming ceremony onboard guided missile cruiser Moskva at the Black Sea port of Sochi, August 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA  - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR4260Q

The turbulent dynamics of the Middle East make responsible stakeholders take proactive yet cautious stances. Russian policies in the Middle East have recently attracted attention, as Moscow has participated in nearly every significant regional initiative. The boost in this activity comes partly because sanctions have imposed certain limits on Russia's policies toward Europe. Moscow is thus compelled to seek better political and economic opportunities in other important regions where it has historically had sound influence.

The philosophy behind Russia's new Middle East policy is made up of a mixture of tactics. Policymakers definitely do not want to get dragged down into complicated political and security puzzles — a bitter lesson learned from the Soviet experience. But while Moscow keeps a high public profile in three prime areas — the Iranian P5+1 talks, the Israeli-Palestinian “Big Four” negotiations and the Syrian track — its activity beyond the institutional formats is less declaratory. Therefore, it is essential for Moscow to work actively behind the scenes with critical regional powers and to create potential leverage to balance major external forces, primarily the United States.

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