Libmonster ID: UK-1498
Author(s) of the publication: A. M. VASILIEV


Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Keywords: Russian-Arab relations, Arab countries, Egypt, Syria

In the post-Gorbachev period, Russia, having abandoned both official atheism and the division of other countries into "reactionary" and "progressive" ones, sought to find economic and, in some ways, political partners in the rich monarchies of the Persian Gulf. However, finding common ground was not easy and not fast.

In the 1990s, Russia did not receive large investments from the Gulf countries. Alertness remained. Arab capital was afraid to invest in Russia, not knowing either the laws or traditions, not being sure of stability. As Saudi businessmen told the author, " capital is inherently cowardly, it needs guarantees for its activities, and Russia does not have them."


In oil matters, relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia were difficult. The two countries were the largest oil producers and exporters in those years. But Saudi Arabia was an OPEC member and had a huge impact on politics

Ending. For the beginning, see: Asia and Africa today. 2016, N 10, 11.

The research was carried out within the framework of the HSE Basic Research Program in 2016 with the support of the Russian Science Foundation project "Russian Policy in the Middle East: Prospects and Limits of Cooperation with the countries of the region" (N 14-18-03615).

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other countries of this organization. Russia has often faced OPEC competition for markets and prices. Saudi Arabia's job was to maintain oil prices, and it could afford to limit production and exports.

In the 1990s, privatisation brought Russian oil into the hands of more than 50 private oil companies, which acquired vast wealth and political influence in the impoverished country.1 And in Saudi Arabia, ARAMCO was nationalized, becoming "Saudi ARAMCO" as the most important tool of state policy. Russia increased its oil exports in the 1990s and noughties simply because there was no other choice.

Says Yu. K. Shafranik*: "There is a slyness in the statement that, they say, our oil companies themselves increased production and exports. At one time, on my initiative, a law was passed that all mineral resources in our country belong to the state. It was the government that had the right and opportunity to restrict both oil production and export. But in those years, and even taking into account the high market conditions, there were no other opportunities except for oil export. How these revenues were used to solve our economic problems is another matter, rather a political one. I can note that in the years of Kosygin, we did not even dream of such incomes, but we mastered Samotlor, and all the Tyumen oil, developed both space and the nuclear fleet..."2.

Since autumn 2001 Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have tried to get Russia to reduce oil production to keep prices high. Moscow refused 3. The high oil market conditions in the noughties pushed these disagreements to the back burner.

In addition to economic tensions, there were also political ones. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, or at least local private donors, have funded Islamist groups in the North Caucasus. One of the field commanders in Chechnya was a certain Khattab of Saudi origin. Another Chechen terrorist leader, Shamil Basayev, received financial support and volunteers from the Gulf states.

From 1997 to 1999, according to a U.S. State Department official, Gulf charities provided more than $100 million to support Chechen separatists. Neither the US nor the Gulf states have ever called them "terrorists"4. Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov visited Saudi Arabia in 1997 and met with Saudi and other Muslim leaders.5 At the Organization of the Islamic Conference conference in June 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Saudi representative called the Russian military operation "an inhumane act against the Muslims of Chechnya." 6

However, at the governmental level, Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf monarchies, demonstrated restraint and declared unwillingness to interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

The growing ties between Russia and Israel had a negative impact on relations. The Saudis and other Gulf states were already accustomed to US-Israeli cooperation and were limited only to verbal condemnation, but ties between Russia and Israel acted as an irritant.

The impact of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Russian-Saudi relations was multifaceted. U.S.-Saudi cooperation has deteriorated, and under these circumstances, a symbolic improvement in Saudi-Russian relations has become possible. The Chechen conflict was fading into the background. Moscow sought to get closer to the Muslim world and even participate in the work of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The way lay through Riyadh.

At that time, Washington demanded that the Kingdom control and restrict private donations to support Islamic terrorists. The US claimed that Saudi Arabia had become a "center of evil" in the Middle East and a dangerous opponent of the United States7. Saudi capital began to leave the United States, but the transfer of huge Saudi investments from the United States (allegedly about $200 billion) anywhere was almost impossible.8

From the Russian side, compliments were paid to the Kingdom, and its political and economic weight was noted.

The American invasion of Iraq in March 2003 helped bring Moscow and Riyadh closer together, because Russia was against the US actions, and Washington did not want to hear the voice of the Kingdom, which refused to participate in the anti-Iraqi coalition. At the same time, Saudi criticism of Russia's policy in the North Caucasus was muted.

Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia Abdullah visited Moscow in September 2003, and Vladimir Putin was a guest of the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Malaysia in October 2003, and Russia received observer status. In January 2004. Saudi Arabia has accepted Chechen leader Akhmat Kadyrov as the legitimate representative of the Chechen people. Moreover, he received a high honor: together with Prince Abdullah, he participated in the washing of the Kaaba.

During Prince Abdullah's visit to Moscow, President Vladimir Putin assured his guest: "We have always considered the Islamic world to be the most important place in the world.

* Yu. K. Shafranik - Head of the Tyumen Region Administration (1991-1993), Minister of Fuel and Energy (1993-1996). Since 2002-Chairman of the Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists of Russia. In 2004, he was elected Chairman of the RF CCI Committee on Energy Strategy and Fuel and Energy Complex Development.

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the world, the Arab world is our partner and ally"9. The Crown Prince said that Russia's policy is "principled, balanced and reasonable." 10 According to him, the positions of both countries on the Middle East and the situation in Iraq coincide 11.

Agreements on cooperation in the oil and gas sector were signed. Differences on a number of issues between the two countries persisted, but there was a desire for rapprochement. Saudi Arabia has increasingly stated that the Chechen problem is an internal Russian one.

In January 2004, Lukoil won a tender for the development of several oil and gas fields in the Rub al-Khali desert. 12 On March 17, 2004, a corresponding contract was signed with Saudi ARAMCO and LUXAR was established (Lukoil - 80%, ARAMCO-20%). It was a small achievement for the Saudi oil industry, but it was a symbolic step toward bringing the two countries closer together. After a few years, LUXAR found good deposits of gas condensate.

Contacts have begun on possible Russian arms shipments to Saudi Arabia 13. In December 2004, as a gesture of solidarity, the Saudi Government sent $100,000 to the victims of the terrorist attack in Beslan, 14 which claimed 333 lives, including 186 children.15

King Fahd died in August 2005 and was succeeded by Abdullah; the old policy continued.

In February 2007, immediately after his famous Munich speech, President Vladimir Putin visited Saudi Arabia. The king met him right at the plane ramp. During the visit, Putin was presented with the highest award of the state - the Order of King Abdulaziz; at the right moment, both the president and the monarch performed the Arabian saber dance. As a sign of respect for local traditions, Russian journalists accompanying the president donned hijabs. The leaders exchanged warm words and signed a dozen agreements on economic and cultural cooperation.16

Aid through private donors to the North Caucasian separatists was decreasing.

The trade turnover between the two countries increased to $143 million in 200417. It reached $363.8 million in 2009.18 On both Saudi and Russian scales, this is a small figure, but the trend raised hopes for the future. As for the Saudi media, which is closely connected with the Western media, anti-Russian and anti-Putin materials appeared regularly.

In the noughties, bilateral political consultations were held at the level of deputy Foreign Ministers and department directors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The last round was held in Riyadh in February 2011, where the Russian delegation was headed by the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for the Middle East, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs A.V. Saltanov. In November 2007, the then Crown Prince, Minister of Defense and Aviation, and Inspector General of the Kingdom's Armed Forces, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, visited Moscow.

Space has become one of the most successful areas of cooperation. Since September 2000, 14 Saudi communications and remote sensing satellites have been launched into space by Russian carriers. In the energy sector, there was an exchange of visits at the ministerial level. Since October 2002, the Joint Intergovernmental Russian-Saudi Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation has been functioning. The meetings were not very frequent. The Russian-Saudi Business Council was established as part of the Russian-Arab Business Council. Representatives of major Russian companies visited Saudi Arabia, but did not achieve much success.

The Government of the Kingdom decided to reduce its own wheat production from 2008, and from 2016 to completely abandon its production. Wheat was grown in Saudi Arabia, but its cost was about 7 times higher than international prices. Negotiations have begun on setting up joint ventures in Russia for grain production. The corresponding company was created in the hope of producing 4 million tons per year.

Direct links were established between the Russian Academy of Sciences and the largest Saudi scientific and technical center-King Abdulaziz University. The most active scientific cooperation was carried out by the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In March 2009, the Russian delegation headed by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation A. Avdeev was a guest of the national festival of cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia "Jenaderiya-2009".

In May-September 2011, the State Hermitage Museum hosted the Saudi archaeological exhibition "Roads of Arabia", where unique exhibits were presented. On the Saudi side, the opening ceremony was attended by the Chairman of the High Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of Saudi Arabia, Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first ever Saudi cosmonaut.

In June 2008, a delegation of the Council of Muftis of Russia headed by Chairman of the Council Ravil Gainutdin visited the Kingdom to participate in the international conference "Global Challenges and Problems of our Time", held under the patronage of the King of Saudi Arabia. In October 2008, Jeddah hosted the 4th meeting of the Russia - Islamic World Strategic Vision Group. The Russian delegation was headed by the President of Tatarstan M. Shaimiev.

A number of agreements and memoranda of cooperation between the two countries were signed both in the 1990s and in the 1990s.

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zero years, including on bilateral consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, on cooperation in the field of sports, on the avoidance of double taxation of income and capital (2007), on air transport (2007).

In January 2008, Russian Railways won a tender for the construction of a 520-kilometer railway line worth $800 million. But four months later, Saudi Arabia refused to sign the contract. Perhaps under pressure from Russia's competitors, but it is possible that there were also purely political reasons. After all, US President George W. Bush visited Riyadh, which meant a warming of relations between the two countries 19.

Stroytransgaz, one of the largest international contractors in the field of oil and gas construction, was more successful. In 2007, the company won a tender for the construction of the Sheiba-Abkayk oil pipeline, in which Saudi ARAMCO was the customer. The construction cost of approximately $100 million was completed on time. No new major contracts have been signed yet, although Stroytransgaz has gained a good reputation.

Moscow's approach to relations with the Kingdom was realistic. American influence prevailed in Saudi Arabia's political and economic life. Military cooperation, finances, and the training of Saudi civilian and military elites in the United States all linked the two countries closely. But reports of a rapprochement with Russia were pleasant to the ears of the Saudi leadership and irritating to the American one.

The Gulf countries, in particular the UAE, have become important importers of Russian weapons and some small-scale civilian goods. In 2007, the two countries celebrated the 15th anniversary of military cooperation.

The first international exhibition and sale of weapons, held in 1993 in the capital of the United Arab Emirates-Abu Dhabi, attracted many international companies that produce weapons, including Russian 20. Over the next 10 years, military-technical cooperation between Russia and the Emirates exceeded $1 billion 21. Statements on a number of common positions on international issues followed.

In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin paid the first visit to the UAE in the history of bilateral relations. In 2009, Russia hosted the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai M. Al Maktoum. In 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and twice in 2015. Russia was visited by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi M. Al-Nahyan.

Senior Russian officials have repeatedly visited the Emirates. Inter-ministerial contacts, including at the ministerial level, have become regular. Exchanges and conversations were established at the level of other ministries and departments.

In 2013, the bilateral trade reached $2.5 billion. In the next two years, due to unfavorable financial and economic conditions, this figure decreased to $1.2 billion, but then rose again. The Russian-Emirati intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, established in 1994, has been operating regularly. A number of agreements were signed to strengthen the legal framework of relations. Inter-parliamentary relations also developed.

By the middle of the second decade, 25,000 people lived in the Emirates. the Russian-speaking colony, in general, numbered over 40 thousand people. In 2015 More than 430,000 Russian citizens visited the Emirates 22.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the UAE became the fourth largest customer for Russian weapons purchases after China, India and Iran. Russia and the Emirates seriously discussed the possibility of joint military production.

As a competitor for the supply of weapons and their maintenance, Ukraine and Belarus acted, knocking down prices for both goods and services.

The Gulf States could not ignore the painful Chechen problem and endorse Russian actions against Chechen separatists. But all the Gulf States recognized Chechnya as part of the Russian Federation and condemned acts of terrorism. When Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov and some members of his inner circle were killed in the bombing of a stadium in Grozny on 9 May 2004, Qatar's Foreign Minister described the event as a "terrorist act" and said that his country condemns terrorism in all its forms, no matter where it comes from.23

Qatar had good relations with Moscow. In April 1998, Qatar and Russia signed an agreement on military cooperation, which, however, was not implemented, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber Al-Sani, visited Russia and met with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yevgeny Primakov.24 These negotiations were described as "very successful" 25.

In December 2001, the ruler of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad, visited Moscow and expressed his desire to develop the widest possible cooperation. 26 They discussed economic projects with Gazprom and joint actions in the fight against international terrorism. It didn't go any further than words.

Relations between the two countries were marred by the murder of one of the Chechen separatist leaders, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, in Doha on February 13, 2004. Two Russian intelligence officers were arrested, charged with the murder,and both faced the death penalty. 27 In December 2004, Moscow's diplomatic efforts to protect its citizens brought the following results:

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28, and Qatar has sent two accused Russians to Russia.

Strengthening relations with the Gulf governments allowed Moscow to seek restrictions on the activities of private donors who financed the separatists in the North Caucasus.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, or rather, even on the eve of its collapse, Yemen was left to its own fate. Marxist South Yemen was forced to merge with North Yemen on May 22, 1990. The Republic of Yemen emerged, dominated by Northerners. The Southerners ' military attempt to secede again failed. The country maintained relations with Russia, but on a strictly pragmatic basis.

In May 2000, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev visited Sanaa and held talks with President Ali Abdullah Saleh on expanding bilateral ties. 29 In 2002 and 2004, the Yemeni President visited Moscow. There was an exchange of visits of high-ranking representatives of the two countries.

In the noughties, Russia restored military-technical cooperation with Yemen, supplying tanks, fighter-bombers and other armament30. Economic relations were limited. On international issues, the positions of the two sides coincided. Both countries have condemned international terrorism, although several Yemeni-born terrorists have been identified in Chechnya.

Russian-Yemeni relations were friendly, but the predominant influence of the United States in the region was not in doubt. President Saleh visited the United States four times-in 1990, 2000, 2001, and 2004. Traditional ties with Russia were used as a counterbalance to the United States.

PARTNERSHIP, BUT NOT AN ALLIANCE* (Russia and Egypt in the noughties)

Rapprochement between Russia and Egypt accelerated in the first decade of the twenty-first century, although there were limitations and limits. Both countries met each other halfway, sought and found understanding on a number of international issues. This concerned the Middle East settlement, the situation in Iraq and the situation in Syria, Lebanon and around them, and the creation of a security system in the region. It is unlikely that even their joint efforts could play a decisive role, say, on the track of the Middle East settlement. But they helped the search for a way out of a seemingly hopeless impasse in order to avoid the escalation of the conflict.

Egypt claimed to be a regional power, was one of the largest countries in Africa and one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement. His position sometimes came into conflict with the peremptory messianic demands of the United States, which was an additional incentive for rapprochement with Russia. Cairo hoped to get a permanent seat on the Security Council in the future as part of the UN reform process. Although the reform itself was delayed, and Russia was faced with a difficult choice, since South Africa and Nigeria also applied for a permanent UN member in Africa, the mutual rapprochement of the two countries continued.

In its foreign policy and business relations, Cairo sought to move "along all azimuths", primarily strengthening relations with major world powers, including Russia. A similar principle was followed by Russia, which sought to "return to the Middle East"in some new form. This allowed Moscow and Cairo to update the forms and methods of interaction and expand cooperation.

An important role was played by the growth of mutual trust, which allowed Russia to feel more subtly both the attitude of Egyptians and all Arabs to the Iranian nuclear issue, and to the situation in Syria and Lebanon. The absence of conflicting interests helped raise Russian-Egyptian relations to a higher level. Looking at many conflicts in the region, both countries were convinced that their positions either coincided, were close, or developed parallel courses.

Russia did not demand Egypt's abandonment of its previous alliances and cooperation with the West, nor did it set such a goal. It was obvious that in the economic and humanitarian spheres, Russia could not replace Egypt's broad and multilateral ties and cooperation with Western Europe and the United States. The Russian economy was unable to compete with Western countries in the Middle East. The Russian model of a centralized state economy was outdated, and the forms of foreign economic relations were ineffective.

But cooperation with Russia made Egypt more confident in the international arena, both in the region and in the world as a whole, which allowed it to better defend its positions, in particular, in the Mediterranean Union, in relations with NATO. Cairo was concerned about the transformation and expansion of NATO. The question was asked here: will this organization become a global police officer? Will it be based on the norms of international law and act only on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions? In Cairo, they feared that NATO would suddenly start playing a role in the Middle East settlement, which would relegate Egypt to a third-rate role. These concerns were not spilled out, and protocol contacts between NATO and Egypt were carried out and developed. Moreover, Egypt sought to gain access to the technical potential of NATO, to the training of personnel.

Taking into account the traditions of Russian-Egyptian cooperation-

* This chapter is based on the manuscript of M. L. Bogdanov's dissertation "Transformation of relations between Russia and Egypt (1991-2011)".

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The importance of coordinated positions in Middle East affairs was a priority for Cairo, including in the United Nations.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, inter-ministerial consultations, exchanges of delegations, meetings and conversations showed that the Egyptian leadership and the League of Arab States (LAS) were interested in political coordination with Russia on key regional issues, especially on the Middle East settlement, including work with Israel, Palestine and Syria. Cairo also hoped for mutual understanding with Moscow on the activities of the Middle East Quartet.

These relations were carried out both on a bilateral basis and through the Arab League. Russia was one of the pioneers and established a strategic partnership with the Arab League. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Arab League Secretary General was signed in September 2003.

This cooperation was expanded after President Vladimir Putin's visit to the Arab League headquarters in Cairo in 2005 and the decision to accredit the Russian Ambassador to Egypt, who became the first foreign representative to the Arab League.31 Russia and the Arab League outlined new steps in a new memorandum signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa in Cairo in December 200932.

In the early 2000s, there was a serious setback in the implementation of the agreements reached with great difficulty between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority in Oslo (1993). The results of long and painstaking negotiations were largely devalued. The negotiation process was stalled, which was facilitated by the resumption of Israeli settlement activity and terrorist attacks by Palestinian extremists against the Israeli civilian population. The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002* did not meet with Israel's understanding. All this has negatively affected the situation in the region and created very serious problems for Egypt itself.

That is why both Russia and Egypt, hoping to revive the Middle East negotiation process, supported the international meeting in Annapolis (November 2007), initiated by Washington, although, as they expected, the result was extremely limited.

In Cairo, after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was deep skepticism about the possibility of stabilization in that country. Neither Moscow nor Cairo could really influence the development of events. In 2006, four Russian citizens were captured in Iraq, 33 and the Egyptians were ready to assist in their release. But all efforts were in vain. The hostages were killed. Egyptians themselves experienced a tragedy: Iraqi extremists killed the Egyptian ambassador in Baghdad. We also found common positions at a very difficult moment, when the propaganda war against Syria was going on after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The task was to prevent the destabilization of the situation in Syria itself. In this regard, the positions of Egypt and Russia coincided.

The Russian-Egyptian sides regularly exchanged views on the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the Iranian nuclear program. In the second half of the noughties, the danger of Israel or the United States attacking Iran's nuclear and military facilities seemed real. The Egyptian leadership spoke directly about the double standards of the United States regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, taking into account Israel's possession of nuclear weapons. Such a selective approach, the Egyptians stated, was contrary to the principles of international law and did not correspond to the aspirations of Arab countries to turn the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Another thing is that Iran's possession of a military nuclear potential would inevitably push many countries in the region to develop their own similar programs, which, ultimately, would add fuel to an already explosive situation. This position of Cairo found understanding in Moscow and was taken into account when developing the Russian line in relation to the Iranian nuclear issue.

The Egyptians pointed out that Israel's refusal to join the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons determined their position regarding participation in the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Egypt supported the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, including with the participation of Israel and Iran. But the US simply brushed them off.

In the early noughties, the Russian-Egyptian working group on combating terrorists was established as part of mutual cooperation.34 Even in those years, the Egyptian side noted that states ' compliance with the "know your customer" rules regarding Internet service providers is a necessary condition for narrowing cyberspace for terror propaganda. According to the Egyptians, the World Wide Web, in fact, turned into an " encyclopedia-

* The Arab Peace Initiative (2002) is an official Arab initiative adopted by the League of Arab States in Beirut on March 28, 2002, aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace with Israel and ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, provided that Israel withdraws from the territories it occupied in 1967 and recognizes the State of Palestine in the West Bank and beyond. in the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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the religion of terror". Russia, for its part, shared this view and participated in the development of the UN global counter-terrorism strategy, OSCE documents, the Council of Europe, and the Group of Eight.

There were also discrepancies. Egyptians in those years did not agree with Russia's inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood Association in the list of "terrorist organizations" and noted that it is a de facto political organization and has its own representatives in the Egyptian parliament. But the Russian court decision on this issue was caused by the participation of Muslim Brotherhood militants in the Chechen events. Perhaps this decision was hasty, but it remained unchanged for many years.

Bilateral relations have been elevated to a higher level. This was also reflected in mutual visits. President Mubarak's visit to the Russian capital in 2001 was a major step forward in this direction. Following the talks with President Vladimir Putin, a Declaration on the principles of friendly Relations and cooperation was signed, and a long-term program for the development of trade, Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technical cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Egypt was adopted.35 Prospects were opened for overcoming the stagnation in business relations between the two countries.

In April 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Middle East for the first time. He started his visit with Egypt, and after Cairo, he headed to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Putin's visit helped overcome the stagnation in mutual investment. Business partnerships have begun to be established, albeit on a small scale. The Russian side participated in Egyptian enterprises that assemble tractors and automobiles, as well as in firms specializing in marketing research. These were the first steps, not too big, but they showed a trend. Egyptian entrepreneurs opened trade halls and pavilions selling furniture, clothing, and shoes in Russia. An Egyptian company led by I. Kamal invested $250 million in the production of Tu-204 36 aircraft, although this project did not reach the planned volumes. The International Air Company and the international Travel company opened their agencies in Russia. The creation of a special Russian industrial zone in Alexandria was discussed, although this project was delayed. The Intergovernmental commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical cooperation has started its work.

Cultural cooperation has gained momentum: organization of exhibitions and festivals, tours of art groups, expeditions. There was interaction in the service sector, medical, educational and others. In 2006, the Russian-Egyptian University was opened in Cairo, specializing in training specialists in the most modern technologies. Students from Russia got the opportunity to study at the largest Islamic university Al-Azhar. In Egypt, by the end of the noughties, there was a large Russian diaspora - about 15 thousand people, represented by families based on mixed marriages and individual citizens of Russia.

Spiritual communication and contacts between religious figures developed within the framework of new inter-confessional institutions and forums that emerged at the end of the 20th century. Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, who visited Egypt in 2010, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa, and Hegumen Leonid (Gorbachev), representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Egypt, played a positive role in these processes. The leadership of the Coptic Church and the Islamic University of Al-Azhar treated these contacts constructively. All of them participated in the preparation of sessions of the International Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilizations".

New moments in relations were introduced by the visit of the Prime Minister of Armenia to Moscow. In 2008, the parties discussed the possibility of military-technical cooperation. The establishment of appropriate bilateral bodies for its coordination has begun. A significant part of the weapons in the Egyptian army were still Soviet-made and required modernization or repair.

The Egyptian side considered promising cooperation in the space field, both military and civilian. A wide range of issues were discussed: air transportation, direct sea communication, participation of Russian companies in the development and modernization of the Egyptian highway and railway infrastructure.

The use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was one of the priority areas of Russian-Egyptian business partnership already in the noughties. The Egyptian leadership then made a political decision to sign an intergovernmental agreement with Russia on cooperation in this area. But the task was not easy: it was necessary to agree on the location of the future nuclear power plant, the capacity of the reactors, and agree on financial and legal issues. The Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Egypt on Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was signed in Moscow in March 200837. But the contract was delayed, and in the meantime, international competition in the field of nuclear energy was growing.

The visa regime was eased between the two countries, which was eventually abolished by Egypt, and the following agreements were agreed:

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documents submitted by the Ministries of Justice.

By the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, trade and economic ties between Russia and Egypt had increased from $0.4 billion in 2000 to $2.1 billion. And when services, i.e. tourism, are taken into account, they grew to about $4 billion by the end of the decade. In 2010, the number of Russian tourists was about 2.5 million.

The bulk of Russian supplies to Egypt were lumber, wheat, rolled ferrous metals, machinery and equipment. Hydrocarbons were practically absent. The issue of participation of Russian entrepreneurs in a special industrial zone, where they were supposed to receive tax or other benefits, was constantly raised. However, this issue was delayed because the attractiveness and content of the project, as well as the possibilities of Russian business, were not clear.

H. Mubarak's visit to Moscow in March 2009 meant that high-level contacts were regular.

On June 23, 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Egypt and signed an Agreement on Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and Egypt 38. Although this document was not ratified at the time of writing, in practice it has become the basis for cooperation. The parties understood that it was necessary to provide conditions for joint investments in infrastructure, especially traditional energy and alternative energy sources, in public works, housing construction, transport, communication technologies, and tourism. The agreement noted the importance of military and military-technical cooperation "taking into account mutual interests and their international obligations."

Scientific and technical cooperation was identified as one of the most promising areas, including in the field of high technologies, nuclear energy, communications, satellite launch for commercial purposes, medicine and pharmaceuticals. Large Russian companies operating in the field of hydrocarbons and construction, banks and insurance companies, transport companies, have become bolder to enter the Egyptian market.

The expansion of Russian-Egyptian relations in the first decade of the twenty-first century was accompanied by the formation of legal, financial, organizational structures and institutions of cooperation, including intergovernmental agreements on the avoidance of double taxation and on the granting of most-favored-nation treatment.

However, the volume of mutual investments remained small. In some industries, it was simply absent. Even the increased volume of mutual trade in goods and services was significantly lower than that of Egypt with the leading highly developed countries. There were also objective reasons - the technical backwardness of a number of sectors of the Russian economy, the lack of proper competitive experience. All this objectively restrained the growth of mutual trade exchange, although the trend was generally positive.

Nevertheless, Russian-Egyptian relations continued to grow, even despite the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. But the Egyptian leadership refused to notice the threatening signs of a socio-political storm that would turn the country and the entire Arab world upside down and leave its mark on Russian-Arab relations in general. Both the Russian diplomatic department, the special services, and even the scientific community noted the crisis phenomena in Egypt and other Arab countries, but categorically refused to even hint at possible interference in internal Arab affairs.


This is the headline Polish-Canadian political scientist Andrei Kreutz * gave to his study of Russian-Syrian relations 39. It is rare for a Western scientist to accurately "get into the top ten". It should be noted that the Russian military intervention in Syria was still five years away at the time of publication of the article. The author tactfully does not determine what the "main trump card"is. It is clear that we are not talking about the trump "six", but also not about the " ace "or"king". Using the terms of a card game, you can rather call Syria the "trump jack" or" trump queen " in Russian politics in the region.

This is the situation that Russia has been pursuing for almost twenty years in the" post-Gorbachev " period. It is worth recalling that Syria was the second Arab country after Egypt, where regular Soviet troops were sent in the 80s of the last century-about two air defense regiments, along with military advisers from other branches of the armed forces.

Close military and political cooperation between the USSR and Syria developed after Egypt's withdrawal from the confrontation with Israel and the conclusion of peace with it, when Cairo was in Washington's orbit. Then, in the absence of an adequate substitute for Egypt, the USSR strengthened its ties with Iraq, Algeria, South Yemen, and Syria. Let's just note that the economy has never been decisive in relations with Syria. Scope of trade and economic cooperation with

* Andrej Krejc received a degree in international law and European history from the Jagiellonian University of Krakow (Poland), and a doctorate in comparative politics and international relations from the University of Toronto (Canada). Автор монографии "Russia in the Middle East: Friend or Foe" (Westport, Praeger Security International, 2007).

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Iraq outweighed these figures for all other Arab countries.

Under Mikhail Gorbachev, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad made three visits to Moscow. The last time, in April 1990, instead of the leader of a superpower, he saw a confused man who could not formulate the strategic directions of Russian policy in the region, and asked Assad how he could manage the country in such a difficult period.

Then, for a while, Moscow forgot about Syria. In the early 90's, there was no time for Syria. Preoccupied with internal affairs, Russia, which had lost 14 Soviet republics, was struggling to define its own socio-political and international identity.

Relations with Syria were curtailed. Experts were leaving, and Russia had a huge debt on Syria. Neither the strength nor the desire to invest new funds was not. However, due to inertia, some economic and cultural cooperation continued. Agreements were signed on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation, on the avoidance of double taxation, on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, on oil and gas exploration, and on irrigation work. Scholarships for higher education institutions in the Russian Federation were resumed. In 2001, the trade turnover between the two countries amounted to $163 million.

The relative revival of political contacts was associated with the activities of Ye. Primakov as Foreign Minister, when he tried to include the Syrian-Israeli track in the negotiation process of the Middle East settlement. This caused interest in Israel, but did not lead to anything concrete. By this time, in 1981, Israel had officially annexed the Syrian territory-the Golan Heights-and was actively developing it, although no one in the world recognized the annexation.

Already ill, President Hafez al-Assad did visit Moscow in July 1999, but achieved little success. The declarations contained general phrases.

At this time, Syria was experiencing its own problems. There was a question about the political legacy of Hafez al-Assad. His brother Rifaat was sent into honorable exile abroad after the coup attempt. Bashar al - Assad's eldest son, Basil, was preparing for the presidency, but he died in a car accident in 1994. Then Hafez al-Assad summoned his second son, Bashar, from England, who was perfecting the specialty of an ophthalmologist there, in order to grow him into a military and political leader and gradually transfer the reins of power. The balance of power between the Ba'ath Party leadership and the military establishment was such that the transfer of power from father to son did not cause much resistance.

Bashar al-Assad sought to bring the country out of isolation, to establish relations with Western Europe (his first visits were to Paris and London), with the United States, with neighbors-especially with Turkey. But unresolved issues with Israel hung over everything. Yes, there were no military clashes on the armistice line in the Golan Heights under either Hafez al-Assad or Bashar al-Assad, which suited both sides. But no government in Syria could agree to the annexation of this territory.

Anti-Israel sentiment, accompanied by sharp criticism of Israel's allies and patrons, as well as growing ties with Iran, reinforced the unfriendly attitude of the United States and other Western countries towards the Ba'athist regime in Syria. Neither Israel nor the United States wanted to agree to a Syrian military presence in Lebanon, where Syrian troops were deployed on the basis of the 1989 Taif agreement (Saudi Arabia) to end the civil war. Syria maintained an independent behavior, and "anti-imperialist" (anti-Western) rhetoric came from Damascus.

Therefore, it seemed to many that in 2003, after Iraq was occupied by the United States and its allies, Syria was next in line. The corresponding propaganda was carried out in the Western media, but no pretext was found. Everyone was hearing fake explanations for the intervention in Iraq, where the situation was getting worse day by day.

Moscow's diplomatic support for Syria has been constant. Washington only talked about the task of "democratizing" the Middle East, but so far it has not provided for a new intervention of its armed forces anywhere. At that moment, Russia was correcting the pro-Western tilt of its policy and, in an effort to maintain its influence in world affairs as one of the largest powers, was beginning its return to the US-dominated Middle East.

The only Arab State that openly opposed American hegemony at that time was Syria. Anti-Syrian resolutions were adopted by the US Congress. The anti-Syrian rhetoric of the Western media was growing. The situation pushed Moscow and Damascus towards each other.

Why did the Russian Federation need Syria? Several factors played a role here, each of which could become more important in a certain period of time, fade into the background, but remain in a different period.

In the first place, perhaps, were strategic political tasks: to get their de facto ally in the region and strengthen it, in any case, to prevent foreign military intervention.

The rapprochement was helped by the existence of a secular regime with traditional ties to the USSR/Russia. Only the Russian Alumni Association-

page 16
There were about 35,000 students of Russian universities in Syria. Tens of thousands more graduated from Soviet / Russian military schools or academies. The army was armed almost exclusively with Russian weapons. More than one and a half tens of thousands of Russian women were married to Syrians, and, accordingly, their children grew up in mixed families.

It also took into account the absence of an anti-Russian Islamist threat from Syria at a time when financial injections and volunteers from Saudi countries were being sent to the North Caucasus. To avoid this Islamist threat, Russia strengthened relations with Arab and Muslim countries at the state level, regardless of their regimes, whether it was Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states, whether it was secular Syria, where a neat balance was maintained between different faiths, whether it was Egypt, almost an ally of the United States.

In general, Russia's policy in the region in those years meant more reacting to the current situation or the actions of other players, and the initiatives were rather declarative. This assessment is by no means categorical. Washington's political mistakes, which caused growing anti-Americanism among the masses, and the pragmatic awareness of local elites of their interests-all this allowed Russia and a number of countries in the Middle East to proactively determine their tasks and meet each other halfway.

Syria's strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean also attracted Russia. A supply base in Tartus might be in demand due to some resurgence of the Russian Navy, although the repair shops and floating piers in Tartus were still rusting. Economic relations were insignificant and did not play a decisive role, but everyone remembered that the previous economic success of Syria was associated with cooperation with the USSR. Then a dam and hydroelectric power station were built on the Euphrates, a reservoir was created, and the area of irrigated land was expanded.

It should be noted that, in general, the course of relations with Syria was not easy for the Russian leadership due to Israeli and American factors. There was no unified position of the Russian elite in the assessments of Syria. The left-wing opposition and part of the general staff, which had traditional, almost allied relations with the Syrian military, insisted on cooperation with this country, as well as with other Arab states. But there were many opponents of rapprochement.

"In recent years, with Moscow's tacit consent, the Americans have labeled this country (Syria) as a sponsor of international terrorism," wrote Communist Party Duma deputy Vladimir Putin. Tetekin. - Syria is mentioned in the Russian media, as a rule, only in a negative context. Thus, in the Russian media about Syria-either nothing or nothing good... Assad's visit to Moscow (2005-A.V.) was not without strong resistance from a part of the Russian leadership, which relied on friendship with Israel."41

President Bashar al-Assad's first visit to Moscow took place in January 2005 and served as an impetus for restoring historical ties. Assad met with President Vladimir Putin, and both sides described it as "successful." Moscow wrote off 73% of the Syrian debt, which then reached $13.4 billion.42 In his statements, Vladimir Putin secretly criticized the United States and Israel and supported the Syrian position. But this did not imply any anti-Israel sentiment in the Kremlin.

Bashar al-Assad's visit in January 2005 was indeed a historic milestone, given that Israel's policy was not only to ensure its absolute military dominance in the region, but also to weaken Syria to the point where it was completely impossible to maintain any defensive potential. Even in Soviet times, the Syrian leadership hopelessly counted on military parity with Israel, which the United States armed according to the best models of its military-industrial complex, but the USSR did not go for it. Now Syria hoped only to strengthen its defensive capabilities, and Russia, carefully maneuvering, was moving towards it.

Retired Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who formerly headed the Main Directorate for International Military Cooperation of the Russian Defense Ministry, stated:"Our (Russian) military-technical cooperation with the Middle Eastern countries, with the Arab world and with Iran is under the control of Tel Aviv." 43

Russia has not agreed to supply all the weapons requested by the Syrians. "As for the Iskander-E operational-tactical missiles, here the friends of Israel stood up to the death," wrote V. Tetekin. - And now, simultaneously with the arrival of Assad (December 2006-A.V.), the Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, A. Abramovich, rushed to Moscow. " 44

In August 2008, Russia refused to supply President Assad with Iskander-E missiles, single-stage solid-fuel systems with a range of 280-400 km capable of delivering nuclear or conventional warheads.

After the January 2005 visit of the Syrian President to Moscow, economic cooperation began to develop rapidly. The trade turnover grew to $560 million a year, reaching almost $2 billion in 2008.45 It declined during the crisis of 2009, and then began to grow again.

Russian machine-building products, especially for the oil and gas industry, petrochemicals, spare parts for power plants, tractors, trucks, and passenger cars went to Syria. Russian geologists began to explore for oil and gas in the area

page 17
Palmyra. Two gas processing plants were established.

Naturally, military-technical cooperation began to revive. Dozens of new Russian military advisers have been added to the army, and military teachers have been added to academies. Until 2006, Russia did not supply Syria with modern weapons, although it helped modernize and repair military equipment and train officers. After 2006, Syria strengthened its air defense with Russian medium-range complexes.

But overall, military cooperation has been limited by Russia's reluctance to undermine the balance of power in the region. Therefore, despite requests from the Syrian leadership to supply the country with S-300 missiles, Russia refrained from this step.

Meanwhile, a new threat looms over Syria. In Beirut in February 2005, a terrorist attack killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who opposed the presence of Syria in Lebanon. Immediately, Western and part of the Arab media blamed the Syrian regime for the murder.

In Lebanon, physical violence against political figures was not uncommon. The reasons could be political, inter-clan, inter-religious, business contradictions, or just personal hostility. Perhaps one of the Syrians also participated in this. But immediately all the arrows were aimed at Syria, specifically at its president.

To make matters worse, the Hariri family worked closely in business with the Saudi royal family, and Hariri himself was a personal friend of Jacques Chirac, President of France, which had particular influence in Syria and Lebanon.

Under the pressure of Western opponents of Syria and the general campaign of Western media, the UN commission, headed by German D. Mechles, adopted a position that was previously directed against Damascus, which caused Moscow's condemnation. But to defuse the situation, Russia had to agree to UN Security Council Resolution No. 1636, adopted in November 2005, which required the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, which was then implemented. Thanks to the efforts of Russian diplomacy, there was no threat of anti-Syrian sanctions.46

However, Syria still has a powerful ally in Lebanon - the Shiite group and the Hezbollah party, which increased their influence in the country and their armed forces. Their effectiveness was demonstrated by the war with Israel in 2006, during which its army was unable to advance any deeper into Lebanon, although airstrikes destroyed the country and caused heavy civilian casualties. The Israeli leadership blamed the failure on the fact that Russian weapons supplied to Syria allegedly ended up in the hands of Hezbollah.

At the international level, Syria has shown solidarity with Russia. It was the second country after Belarus to support Russia's military action against Georgia, when President Saakashvili's troops attacked Russian peacekeepers and attempted ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia. Georgia's defeat led to the declaration of independence by South Ossetia and Abkhazia and caused a wave of sharp criticism of Russia from the United States and Western countries.

President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Syria in May 2010 was an important diplomatic and political support for Damascus. The parties demonstrated their special relations. The Russian leader agreed with the Syrian views on the Middle East settlement, which strengthened the position of the Syrian leadership and the international status of the country. There was also a call to make the Middle East a nuclear-weapon-free zone, to which Israel did not even respond. In Damascus, Medvedev met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 47. These ties were formally a source of public irritation in both Israel and the United States, but in reality they served as a mutual exchange of information.

It is possible that the pragmatic Syrian leadership seemed too close to embrace Russia. Bashar al-Assad sought to find channels of communication with the United States and Western countries.

Responding to Washington's initiative, Syria agreed to participate in the Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis in December 2007. The meeting ended in nothing, but the gesture was understood in the West. In July 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited Bashar al-Assad to attend a ceremony in Paris on the occasion of the creation of the Mediterranean Union. In September 2008, Sarkozy himself visited Damascus. He met there with the President of Syria, Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emir of Qatar Ahmed bin Khalifa Al-Thani. In May 2010, the American ambassador arrived in Damascus after 5 years of absence. But even after the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, US sanctions against Syria, imposed in May 2004 and strengthened in 2007, were renewed by President Obama.48

It is possible that relations with the West would improve. Western countries seemed to accept the Baathist regime as it was, with the hope of its"liberalization". But the "Arab spring" had begun, and the possibility of getting rid of the previous regimes, especially with their anti-Western traditions, was too tempting.

An unprecedented tsunami of revolutions and protest movements swept across the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. It has changed the geopolitical realities not only of this region, but of the entire world.

page 18
The very crisis state of the Arab world's socio-political structures was not news in Washington or Moscow.

"President Obama in August 2010 instructed his advisers to write a secret report on instability in the Arab world, and they concluded that in the absence of comprehensive political changes, countries from Bahrain to Yemen are ready for a popular uprising, "the New York Times reported on 17.02.2011. The report was kept secret.

At a hearing in the US Senate in February 2011, CIA spokeswoman S. O'Sullivan said that at the end of 2010, intelligence informed the US administration about the threat of instability in Egypt and the weakening of Mubarak's power. "But we didn't know what the trigger would be," she added (Voice of America, 04.02.2011).

Even the usually cautious Russian Foreign Ministry described the situation in the Arab world this way on the eve of 2011.:

"The situation in the Middle East and North Africa region remained extremely unstable, due to a series of conflicts fueled by inter-religious contradictions and the deterioration of the socio-economic situation. Many countries in the region were characterized by internal political tensions. Against this background, international efforts to bring the Middle East out of the stage of chronic crisis, in which Russia played an active role, continued.

Interaction with the states of the region was aimed at expanding political dialogue based on a common vision of the modern world order, as well as promoting mutually beneficial projects in the economic sphere."49

The strength, character, synchronicity, and consequences of a tsunami of unrest, revolutions, and counter-revolutions were impossible to predict.

Rubinstein Alvin A 1. Red Star on the Nile: The Soviet-Egyptian Influence Relationship since the June War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.1977, p. 147.

2 Interview with Yu. K. Shafranik, March 2015

Dawisha Karen. 3 Soviet Foreign Policy towards Egypt. London, Macmillan. 1979. P. 68.

Yurchenko V. P. 4 Egypt: Problems of National Security, Moscow, Institute for the Study of Israel and the Middle East. 2003, p. 65.

5 Ibid., p. 69.

Dawisha Karen. 6 Op. cit., p. 68.

Dobrynin A. F. 7. Strictly confidential. Ambassador to Washington under six US Presidents (1962-1986). Moscow, Author.1996, p. 434.

Freedman Robert O. 8 Moscow and Middle East: Soviet Policy since the Invasion of Afghanistan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1991, p. 129.

Hinnebusch Raymond 9. The Foreign Policy of Egypt // The Foreign Policies of Middle East States / R.Hinnebusch and A.Ehteshami, eds. Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner. 2002, p. 109.

Yurchenko V. P. 10. Decree. soch., pp. 97-98.

Freedman Robert O. 11 Op. cit., p. 331.

12 Kommersant. 11.12.1997, p. 4.

13 Interfax. 17.10.2005.

Salama A.Salama 14. Russia Re-visited // Al Ahram Weekly (online). June 3-4, 2004. N 693.

15 Act in Beslan


Kasaev E. O. 17 Russia and Saudi Arabia: Dynamics of Energy partnership and creation of a regulatory framework -



Katz Mark N 20. Will Russia and America be allies in Iraq? // Eurasia Insight. 02.11.2004.

21 Military News Agency. 17.02.2005.

22 Material submitted by the Russian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates.

23 ITAR-TASS. 10.05.2004.

24 Arabic News (online). 20.04.1998.

25 Ibidem.

26 ITAR-TASS. 24.12.2001.

27 Ibid. 26.02.2004.

28 Interfax. 23.12.2004.

29 24.05.2000.

30 The Current Digest of the Post Soviet Press. Vol. 56, N 21 (23.06.2004).


32 Ibid.

33 http:/






Kreutz A. 39 Syria: the main Russian trump card in the Middle East. Russie. Nei. Visions. N 55. November 2010 (IFRI, Russia/NIS Center).


Tetekin V. N. 41 Why is Syria an object of pressure from the West? // Soviet Russia. 19.12.2006.

42 Moscow writes off 73% of Syria's debt // Interfax. 25.01.2005.

43 Interfax. 07.09.2010.

Tetekin V. N. 44. Decree. Op.

45 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's interview with the Syrian news agency SANA. MINISTRY OF Foreign Affairs OF THE Russian Federation. 4.06.2009.

Sergeev V. 46 Resolution 1636 "satisfied everyone except Syria" // 01.11.2015.

47 Medvedev, Hamas' Mishaal discuss latest Palestinian state of аffairs // KUNA online. 11.05.2010.

48 Obama renouvelle les sanctions americaines centre le regime syrien // France 24. 05.04.2010.

49 Official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Review of the foreign policy activities of the Russian Federation in 2009. p. 125 - bf70038daf8


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