22 August 2011

New Russians and their old tricks

When you look at Russian behavior in the Middle East during the last few years, it is eerily reminiscent of the good old Soviet Union and its unreserved support of any Arab regime that pitched against the West and, of course, against the little Satan. While Russia has, at least formally, moderated its traditional opposition to Israel and is busily counting its petrodollars and petro-Euros instead of fomenting revolutions in its neighborhood, its involvement in the ongoing conflicts and its handling of the Arab spring shows the same course we (of the appropriate generation) became all too familiar with.

Although, when you look at the underlying reasons for the Russian, seemingly unreasonable support for regimes like the ones of Iran, Syria and Libya, the picture has a few new wrinkles, hitherto unfamiliar to the connoisseurs of the Soviet international policy of old. Where Soviet citizens were painfully used to their dear leaders sending billions of rubles of practically free assistance (including generous allowances for weaponry, the better to resist imperialism in its various guises), the new Russia became rather a capitalist entity by now, being quite interested in getting valyuta (foreign currency) for its tools of destruction.

Nothing shameful by itself in that commercial approach, I hurry to clarify. The only people who don't take money for guns these days are the ones that pay for these guns. And, after we discount the sellers and the buyers, who remains there to cast the first stone? Nah... in fact, this post is to commend the Russians for their refreshing honesty in evaluating their friendships and the reasons for their political support of this or another scandalous polity.

And there are all the good reasons for that. For instance, as this article shows, there are $4bn of good reasons in Libya alone:

Russia's state-owned arms export agency Rosoboronexport stands to lose around USD4 billion as a result of the Libyan conflict and the related UN arms embargo against Tripoli, the head of the organisation has said.
I don't know whether success of the rebels in Libya means that Russian contracts are automatically finished - after all, any new Libyan government will strive to spend its petrodollars somewhere, and why not in Russia? However, the Russian concern is not without reason. Who knows, the new top dog may decide that French and/or German arms are better.

A much better example of Russian new pragmatic approach to life is their response to the Syrian unrest and the bloody way of Baby Assad with suppressing it. Since day one Russian diplomats have gone out of their usual laid-back way to defend the Syrian regime, indefensible by any standard.
Russia opposes U.S. and European leaders' calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign, Interfax news agency reported Friday, saying that the leader should get more time to implement reforms. The move by Russia counters efforts by leaders ratcheting up international pressure against a regime criticized for its brutal crackdown against protesters calling for reforms and the ouster of al-Assad.
From the start of the revolt Russia was practically the only state (of the ones who count) that openly and unreservedly stood against any attempts to censure the bloody regime. The chief reason (aside of the traditional Moscow's interest in the area) is freely and openly discussed in this article from Russian Izvestiya, titled "Cancellation of contracts with Syria will cost Russian MIC* $4B". The article's lede says "Americans urge Russians to stop supply of arms to Assad, while not offering any alternative". Here is the gist of the article:
  • Hillary Clinton demanded that Russia stop the flow of arms to Syrian regime.
  • But Americans are not offering anything for that as a compensation.
  • Follows a long list of weaponry - from submarines to training planes for Syrian air force.
  • Military and technological cooperation [sic] between Russian and Syria has always been of interest to US and Israely intelligence [I wonder why].
  • If Russia will go with the American wishes, it will not only lose several billions but will also undermine its reputation of a reliable provider of arms to Middle East.
  • The weapons shipped to Syria are high-tech products necessary to keep Israel in check [I wonder about the harmony between Lebanese, Syrian, Iranian and Russian propaganda in this respect at least - it must be true then].
  • The Izvestiya's sources in Foreign Ministry said that it will be too much honor to respond to every announcement and every wish of Hillary CLinton [in other words, Hillary, here is a finger - take it or leave it].
  • As far as internal situation in Syria is concerned, with all its complexity, Russian FM doesn't see any loss of control by the government there over the situation in general. Including military cooperation and standing behind the existing contracts.
If you have expected any reference to Syrian dissidents dispatched to the next world on daily basis, my apologies - there wasn't any such reference to offer. By the way, don't invest too much of your time searching the official and semi-official Russian media for any reporting dedicated to the daily killing that continues in Syria. You will hardly find anything there. Now you know why.

(*) MIC - military-industrial complex.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com


Kateland said...

If Assad falls, the Russians most likely will lose their naval base as well. That has to hurt.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Definitely. And hopefully.

Katie said...

And without American handouts Russia would be in bad shape.  A good reason to get rid of foreign aid.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Russia is not in such a bad shape, at least as far as its foreign currency reserves are concerned. They sell gas and oil like there is no tomorrow.

Ricardo said...

Are you familiar with Anatoliy Golitsyn's "New Lies for Old"? It tells the whole story that you touch on here. 

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Nope, Ricardo, to my shame I didn't read the book, although the name is familiar.

Dick Stanley said...

This probably explains why NATO is not bombing Damascus.

As for Russia being in bad shape, all those pictures of Putin with his shirt off seem to be intended to refute that.