Mr. Ramani is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations specialising in Russian foreign policy and contemporary Russia-Middle East relations.
Russia’s re-emergence as an influential diplomatic actor on the Arabian Peninsula after more than a quarter-century in the geopolitical wilderness has startled the U.S. foreign policy community and countered expectations of a sustained Russia-Gulf rift over Moscow’s military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The crowning achievement of Russia’s diplomatic outreach to the peninsula was Moscow’s June 2018 ratification of a strategic-partnership agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is often described as the most trusted U.S. security partner in the Arab world.1 This agreement laid the groundwork for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Abu Dhabi in October 2019. Putin’s trip resulted in $1.3 billion in new bilateral trade deals and caused Russian and Emirati officials to optimistically muse about the strategic partnership’s future trajectory.2 The positions of Russia and the UAE toward regional security crises have converged in striking fashion. In December 2018, the UAE re-established diplomatic relations with Syria and recognized Assad’s legitimacy. Since April 2019, Russia and the UAE have lent material support to Libya National Army (LNA) chieftain Khalifa Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli, and Russia has engaged diplomatically with the UAE-aligned Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Yemen.
The marked upswing in Russian-UAE cooperation has fueled speculation about the foundations of the strategic partnership. Some contend the partnership is mainly transactional. The argument that the UAE is hedging against U.S. disengagement from the Middle East or using Russia as a bargaining chip to secure sophisticated U.S. weaponry — like F-35 fifth-generation fighter jets — has gained particular traction.3 While these hypotheses have some logic, they inadequately explain why the partnership has strengthened in spite of Russia’s pursuit of closer ties with Iran and Qatar. This would seem to diminish Moscow’s value to the UAE. Besides, why would Abu Dhabi risk antagonizing Washington by establishing closer relations with Moscow?
This article contends that Russia’s strengthened relationship with the UAE can be primarily explained by ideational synergies. The leaderships of both countries share an aversion to popular revolutions and hostility toward grassroots Islamist movements. To illustrate how these common perspectives translate into foreign-policy decision making, this article will examine the approaches of Moscow and Abu Dhabi to the Sudanese revolution and the Syrian civil war and assess the prospects of an extension of the partnership to a collective-security framework for the Persian Gulf.
AN AXIS OF COUNTER-REVOLUTION
Although their ideas on an optimal order in the Middle East have often converged, the shared aversion of Moscow and Abu Dhabi to popular revolutions is perhaps the strongest source of cohesion in their diplomatic partnership. The Arab Spring is frequently cited as the catalyst for their shared embrace of counterrevolution in the Arab world, but their grievances with liberal democracy preceded the uprisings of 2011. Sergei Karaganov, the dean of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, contends that the democratic experiment of the 1990s “precipitated the near disintegration” of Russia, and that this experience contributed to Russia’s sustained drift away from European values.4 Russia’s model of sovereign democracy, unveiled in February 2006, aimed to correct the flaws of liberal democracy by enshrining the primacy of material welfare and the preservation of order over political freedom. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a leading Emirati political scientist, has echoed Russian critiques of liberalism, arguing that liberal democracy was widely viewed in the UAE as “divisive and destabilizing” and that Emirati citizens had no desire to change their political system when “prosperity, security and stability” are guaranteed.5 Similarly, in April 2009, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Makhtoum, the ruler of Dubai, stated that democracy was “not suitable” for the UAE and that Emiratis were satisfied with the “prosperity and stability” resulting from their political system.6
Given their association of democracy with instability, Russia and the UAE viewed the outbreak of demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain with suspicion. Episodes of dissent in Russia and the UAE, such as the 2011-12 Russian election protests and the March 2011 petition by Emirati citizens for direct elections to the Federal National Council,7 caused both countries to view the Arab uprisings as a national-security threat. To stem the tide of popular revolutions in the Arab world, the UAE and Russia actively delegitimized the Arab Spring’s legacy. In October 2012, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the Arab Spring as the “seedling that George Bush Jr. sowed,” claiming that the “slogans of change and democratization” that defined the Arab uprisings were the products of outside interference.8 Similarly, in July 2013, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stated that extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda used political transitions in the Arab world to spread their ideologies and linked the Arab Spring to “violence, sectarianism, foreign meddling and a deepening economic crisis.”9
In spite of their critical attitudes towards liberalism, Russia and the UAE have distanced themselves from the reactionary label and presented themselves as the leading supporters of incremental state-led political change in the Arab world. Reflecting on the Arab Spring, Theodore Karasik, the director of the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis from 2008 to 2014, contends that Russia and the UAE viewed themselves as “forces of transformation,” which called for gradual change and resisted the destabilizing “forces of revolution.”10Abdulkhaleq Abdulla concurs, stating that the UAE believes democracy should “evolve from within gradually and conform with local ways of life,” even if this is a protracted process.11 Statements from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev12 and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid of Dubai13 affirm these perspectives. Both leaders argued that the governments of Egypt and Tunisia could have forestalled destabilizing revolutions if they had been more responsive to the needs of their citizens.
In order to underscore their support for state-controlled political change, Russia and the UAE have supported military-brokered transitions and guardian coups in the Middle East. These outcomes allow Russia and the UAE to appear open to eventual democratic transitions and willing to replace ossified authoritarian systems with new leadership, without risking the potential breakdown of state institutions. Their preference for military-brokered transitions was first revealed by the enthusiastic support of both countries for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s “stabilization” of Egypt after the 2013 coup, and in their shared support for counterrevolution during the 2019 uprisings in Algeria and Sudan. As Sudan experienced a military-brokered transition after the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, it is the optimal case study for analyzing Russia and the UAE’s counterrevolutionary goals, and therefore will be discussed below.
COUNTERREVOLUTION IN SUDAN
On December 19, 2018, mass demonstrations broke out in Sudan over discontent with rising prices and deteriorating standards of living. These economic grievances swiftly resulted in calls for Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow, as the Sudanese military and police repressed peaceful demonstrations. Russia and the UAE viewed these sustained anti-government protests in Sudan with alarm. Due to the low public resonance of Sudan’s unrest, and Russia and the UAE’s ability to frame Sudan’s protests as “exclusively African affairs” rather than “Arab uprisings,” the risk of diffusion was remote.14 Instead, the threat of liberalism was geopolitical, as a breakdown of Russia and the UAE’s “stability narratives” risked eroding the regional status of both countries and empowering strategic rivals. Russian policy makers were concerned that Bashir’s overthrow would jeopardize Moscow’s chances of constructing a naval base on the Red Sea, while the UAE feared that a successful revolution would thrust Sudan into the geopolitical orbit of Turkey and Qatar. The outbreak of mass protests in Algeria on February 16, after President Abdelaziz Bouteflika decided to run for a fifth term, amplified these concerns; and both Russia and the UAE feared that their self-ascribed roles as guardians of stability in North Africa would come undone.
Due to their shared concerns, the secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolay Patrushev, discussed Sudan’s unrest with the UAE’s national security adviser, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during his January 29 visit to Abu Dhabi.15 While Russia and the UAE concurred on the need to thwart the progress of popular unrest in Sudan, they pursued divergent tactics to achieve this objective. Russia directly aided Bashir’s efforts to retain power by deploying private military contractors (PMCs) to Sudan and training Sudanese law-enforcement personnel. 16 Russia’s loyalty to Bashir contrasted with its preference for a military-brokered transition in Algeria, a policy distinction that can be partially explained by Moscow’s limited person-to-person relationships with the Sudanese military’s top brass.17 The UAE swiftly lost confidence in Bashir’s leadership, due to its disdain for his alignment with the Muslim Brotherhood, and facilitated a military coup. In December 2018, the UAE halted fuel supplies to Sudan in order to weaken the Bashir regime’s economic cohesion. Emirati officials subsequently assisted the political ambitions of Major General Salah Gosh, Bashir’s former national security advisor, by helping him arrange meetings with Sudanese opposition figures.18 The UAE also forged an alliance with Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the eventual leader of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that replaced Bashir, as Burhan had deployed Sudanese troops to Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition.19
In the immediate aftermath of the April 11 coup, it appeared as if the tactical divergences between Russia and the UAE on Sudan would result in a breakdown of bilateral cooperation. Two senior officials in Russia’s Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev and Andrei Klishas, condemned the military’s takeover of Sudan as an unlawful regime change, comparable to the 2014 Euro-Maidan revolution in Ukraine.20 These forceful objections to the TMC’s seizure of power contrasted markedly with the UAE’s support for the coup and expression of confidence that the TMC’s actions would “ensure security and stability for the sisterly country.”21Notwithstanding this initial discord, a common desire to ensure “stability” triumphed over disorder and forestalled a lasting disagreement over Sudan. On April 16, just five days after the coup, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced that Russia had recognized Burhan’s new government as Sudan’s legitimate authority.22 This swift reconciliation revealed that the Russia-UAE strategic partnership hinges on the independent pursuit of common goals and periodic consultation on shared strategic priorities. It can prosper even in the presence of tactical-level disagreements.23
The rhetorical synergies in Russian and Emirati official statements on developments in Sudan smoothly translated into complementary policies. Kirill Semenov, a prominent Moscow-based defense analyst specializing in the Gulf and North Africa, argues that an informal division of responsibilities was agreed upon prior to Patrushev’s January trip to Abu Dhabi.24 Under this system, Russia supported the Sudanese government through PMC deployments, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia financially backed Khartoum. While disagreements between Russia and the UAE on whether to devote these resources to Bashir or to the Sudanese military complicated their division of responsibilities, the coup took their cooperation to new heights. On April 21, the UAE and Saudi Arabia provided $3 billion in economic aid to Sudan, including an immediate deposit of $500 million into its central bank.25 In tandem with this financial contribution, the Wagner Group stepped up its role in Sudan and found a more receptive partner in Burhan than in Bashir, who ignored Russian strategies to delegitimize the Sudanese opposition.26 According to leaked documents, Russian PMCs actively encouraged the TMC to repress demonstrations, provided there was a “minimal but acceptable” loss of life.27 In light of this direct collaboration, Russian media outlets speculated that Moscow’s display of solidarity with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Sudan would bolster Russia’s status in the Gulf region, as Moscow proved to be a more reliable partner than the United States, which condemned the TMC’s conduct in Sudan.28
The June 3 massacre in Khartoum, which resulted in the deaths of at least 128 demonstrators, strengthened the counterrevolutionary partnership between Russia and the UAE, as both countries emerged as the TMC’s leading international defenders. On June 6, Mikhail Bogdanov emphasized the need for “order to be imposed” and urged the international community to stop interfering in Khartoum’s efforts to “fight against extremists and provocateurs.”29 On June 12, Anwar Gargash used similar rationales to defend Abu Dhabi’s relationship with the TMC, stating that the UAE wanted a peaceful transition that “preserves the state and its institutions in brotherly Sudan.”30 Russia also shielded the UAE from potential international opprobrium by blocking a UN Security Council bid to condemn the TMC’s conduct, on the grounds that the proposed resolution was “unbalanced.”31
The landmark July 5 power-sharing agreement between the TMC and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC), an umbrella organization for Sudan’s opposition, was welcomed in Russia and the UAE, as it aligned with their official desire to support incremental state-led political change. Anwar Gargash expressed particular optimism about the transition agreement’s viability, arguing that it “lays the foundation for an auspicious political transition.”32 The Russian Foreign Ministry also described the agreement as an “important step towards stabilizing the situation in Sudan.”33 Despite this optimistic rhetoric, Russia and the UAE remain concerned about instability resulting from civilian rule, and could try to strengthen the Sudanese military’s influence over the transition process. Andreas Krieg, an expert on Gulf security at Kings College, London, argues that the UAE supported the July 5 deal because it would propel a secular civilian government to power and give the UAE sufficient time to durably strengthen the Sudanese military’s institutional leverage over political affairs.34 Russian state media outlets have cited the failure of the 1985-89 civilian takeover of Sudan as an alarming precedent and promoted the narrative that the Sudanese military is the only institution that can transcend the tribalistic identities that have destabilized the country in the past.35 As Russia and the UAE seek to extend their “stability promotion” efforts in Sudan to new theatres, such as Algeria and Libya, efforts by both countries to empower the Sudanese military could provide a useful precedent for future counterrevolutionary interventions.
SHARED UNDERSTANDINGS ON POLITICAL ISLAM
Perceptions of Islamist movements have profoundly shaped the bilateral relationship between Russia and the UAE since its inception. Until the early 2000s, the UAE’s alignment with Islamist groups in Chechnya and Afghanistan was the primary source of friction in its relationship with Russia. The visit of two senior Chechen separatists to the UAE in January 2000 and the UAE’s recognition of the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan emerged as particular sore points.36 In spite of these areas of conflict, Russia and the UAE were soon united by their mutual suspicions of the Muslim Brotherhood. From the early 1990s onwards, the UAE aimed to “limit the impact of independent Islamism,” believing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s organizational capacity and hegemony over the UAE’s judicial and education systems made it “too powerful to be trusted.”37 Coincidentally, Russia designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group in 2003 for providing organizational assistance to Ibn al-Khattab and Shamil Basayev, two leading Chechen separatists.
Although shared perceptions of a Muslim Brotherhood threat did not immediately act as a catalyst for diplomatic or security cooperation, the Arab Spring caused common concerns in Moscow and Abu Dhabi about Islamist movements to become a basis for cooperation. Even though Muslim Brotherhood governments in Tunisia and Egypt triumphed in democratic elections, Russia and the UAE equated the Arab Spring’s empowerment of these Islamist movements with a rising tide of extremism. In 2012, Nikolay Patrushev warned that the Arab Spring would turn Middle Eastern countries into a “nest of terrorism” that would foment militants in the North Caucasus.38 Sergei Lavrov argued in 2015 that, due to external interference, the Arab Spring rendered Middle Eastern countries “incapable of confronting terrorism.”39 In June 2015, Anwar Gargash stated that “revolution has failed” in the Arab world and indirectly linked the spate of terrorist attacks in Egypt, Kuwait, Tunisia and Somalia to the Arab Spring’s legacy.40
Similar assessments by Russia and the UAE of the Arab Spring’s destructive legacy for regional security — more frequently repeated after ISIS’s emergence — culminated in a direct expression of solidarity against the Islamist threat at the August 2016 Grozny Conference. This international conference on Sunni Islam, co-organized by the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation, identified Wahhabism, Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood as “misguided” interpretations of Islam, much like the Islamic State.41” to counter Al Jazeera’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood.42 This policy prescription reflected the UAE’s strident opposition to Al Jazeera’s impact on Arab public opinion, which was exacerbated by the Arab Spring. While the recommendations of the Grozny Conference were nonbinding, and countervailing pressure from Saudi Arabia diluted the conference’s policy impact, the summit illustrated an alignment between Russia and the UAE on threat narratives and helped strengthen the Moscow-Abu Dhabi security partnership.
The blueprint of shared strategic threats between Russia and the UAE laid out in the Grozny Conference has been amplified further by common understandings of terrorism. The prevailing consensus in Russia is that Islamist groups operating within extant state institutions and exclusively confronting state adversaries are legitimate political actors, while grassroots Islamist organizations that incite domestic unrest are terrorist organizations.43 In a similar vein, the UAE believes that “quietist Islamists” who conform with the political status quo can be readily integrated into state structures, even if they possess extremist ideologies, like the Haftar-aligned Madkhali-Salafis in Libya.44 Despite this shared classification scheme, Russia and the UAE have drastically different perceptions of Shiite nonstate actors. Russia believes that Hezbollah is a legitimate stakeholder, as it does not seek to overthrow Lebanon’s political institutions, while the UAE views it as a terrorist group. Nevertheless, the growth of Russia-UAE cooperation in Syria reveals that common perspectives on Sunni Islamist movements have overshadowed these disagreements and preserved the cohesion of the strategic partnership.
The policy impact of synergistic approaches to containing Islamism has been amplified by regular communications between officials in Russia and the UAE. The UAE’s appointment of Omar Saif Ghobash, an avowed advocate of moderate Islam, as ambassador to Russia in 2009 strengthened bilateral cooperation on anti-extremism initiatives.45 Ghobash’s calls for an expansion of Russia’s counterterrorism role in the Arab world and emphasis on Russia’s status as a great Christian civilization helped enhance positive impressions of the UAE within Russia’s foreign policy establishment.46 The active participation by Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov in forums linked to Mohammed bin Zayed’s tolerance agenda helps advertise the UAE’s vision of moderate Islam in the North Caucasus. In addition, capital investments from Emirati sovereign wealth funds to the Chechen economy reinforce perceptions of Abu Dhabi as an ally in Moscow’s efforts to stabilize the North Caucasus.47 This also allows Russia and the UAE to demonstrate their cooperation against Islamist movements in their respective zones of influence. The expansion of Russia-UAE dialogue on containing Islamist movements has widespread foreign-policy implications, but the UAE’s gradual acquiescence to Russian counterterrorism narratives in Syria is a particularly important development that will be analyzed below.
ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS IN SYRIA
In mid-2011, the positive momentum in the Russia-UAE relationship, generated by both countries’ solidarity against popular unrest in Egypt and Bahrain, stalled, as Moscow and Abu Dhabi embraced opposite positions on the nascent civil war in Syria. In May 2011, Sergei Lavrov extolled Assad’s reform initiatives in Syria and stated that any attempt by foreign powers to overthrow Assad would have repercussions “far beyond Syria’s borders.”48 The UAE sided with the GCC consensus (with the notable exception of Oman) that Assad’s egregious repression of civilians in Syria deprived him of the moral legitimacy to lead, and Abu Dhabi supported Syria’s expulsion from the Arab League in November 2011. In spite of this disagreement, the divergence between Russian and Emirati perspectives on Syria was less drastic than the divide between Moscow and Riyadh. The UAE also shared some of Russia’s concerns about regional destabilization emanating from the war in Syria.
In Russia, the prevailing view was that Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s sponsorship of the Syrian opposition would cause Islamists to participate in a guerrilla war, and that this growth in extremism would spread uncontrollably to other regions, like the North Caucasus and Central Asia.49 Although Emirati officials did not reiterate Russia’s contentions on Islamism during the early stages of the war, former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi notes that Abu Dhabi’s chief priority was ensuring that Syria had a secular government. The pursuit of this goal caused the UAE to host pro-Assad business people even as it sought to diplomatically isolate Damascus.50 The UAE’s active support for the efforts of Jordan and Lebanon to insulate themselves from Syria’s instability, and reluctance to arm Syrian rebel groups, also reflects a partial synergy in thinking between Moscow and Abu Dhabi on the Islamist threat.51
The marked expansion of ISIS’s territorial reach in eastern Syria in 2014 sharpened the UAE’s concerns about an Islamist threat in Syria, and Abu Dhabi spearheaded the Arab world’s efforts to help the U.S. military combat ISIS. Despite the UAE’s solidarity with Washington, Anwar Gargash’s statement to the 2014 Abu Dhabi Security Forum that “so-called moderate Islamists are increasingly being drafted into the ranks of radical groups”52 implicitly criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of arming moderate Syrian rebels. Russia’s military intervention on Assad’s behalf in September 2015 tested the UAE’s willingness to challenge U.S. counterterrorism policy in Syria. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which increased aid to Syrian opposition factions in response to Russia’s actions, the UAE’s response to Moscow’s use of force was initially ambiguous. When the UAE finally broke its silence on Russia’s military intervention on November 30, 2015, its reaction was conciliatory. Gargash stated, “We agree that nobody will be upset by the Russian bombardment of Daesh or al-Qaeda, as it targets a common enemy.”53 This statement raised eyebrows in Washington, as U.S. officials asserted that more than 90 percent of Russian airstrikes in Syria did not target ISIS, but reflected the positive impact of expanded dialogue between Moscow and Abu Dhabi on counterterrorism.
In spite of Gargash’s comments, direct counterterrorism cooperation between Russia and the UAE in Syria remained elusive. Although Russia’s goal of countering extremism by supporting “Syrian state institutions”54 resonated strongly with the UAE’s broader strategic outlook, Syria remained an exception to Abu Dhabi’s views on state order. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla states that the prevailing view in the UAE in 2015 was that “Syria needed a political solution, not more military intervention,” and that Russia’s actions would “lead to the prolonging of Assad’s regime and the suffering of Syrians.”55 Despite this consensus, the Syrian Arab Army’s successful summer 2016 offensive against Aleppo caused the UAE to reassess its longstanding belief that an Assad-led Syrian government would be too unstable to act as a bulwark against Islamism. This strategic re-evaluation caused the UAE to pivot away from the GCC consensus and towards Russia’s long-held views on the Syrian civil war. Since 2016, Emirati officials have privately conveyed the view to their American and GCC counterparts that recognizing Assad would reduce Iran’s hegemony over Syria,56 and the UAE has endorsed Syria’s return to the Arab League. The UAE’s concurrence with central elements of Russia’s Syria agenda has also facilitated the coalescence between Russian and Emirati discourses on counterterrorism. Anwar Gargash’s April 2018 statement that “a few years ago, we had a choice to support Bashar Assad or the opposition, which was joined by jihadists and even many terrorist elements” explicitly endorsed Russia’s dichotomous interpretation of the Syrian civil war and was praised in the Russian media.57
In addition to their shared concerns about the ideological orientation of the Syrian rebels, Russia and the UAE view containing Turkey’s influence in Syria as a central feature of their campaign against Islamist movements. The UAE regarded Turkish-backed Islamist militias in Afrin, such as Jabha al-Shamiye and Faylaq al-Sham, as threatening to its vision of a secular state in Syria,58 while Moscow viewed the preservation of the secular communitarian style of governance in Rojava under the Syrian state umbrella as optimal for stability.59 Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring military campaign, launched in October 2019 to expel Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militias from Turkey’s borders, further strengthened cooperation between Russia and the UAE in Syria. The UAE accused Turkey of engaging in a campaign of aggression against a “brotherly Arab state,”60 and Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiyev, expressed Russia’s disapproval with Turkey’s actions during his visit to Abu Dhabi on October 15.61
Synergies between Russia and the UAE’s positions on Syria have persisted since the October 22 agreement between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on preserving a ceasefire in northern Syria. On December 3, the UAE’s chargé d’affaires in Syria, Abdul-Hakim Naimi, praised Assad’s “wise leadership,” reflecting Abu Dhabi’s willingness to embrace a strengthened partnership with Damascus.62 As the UAE’s position on Syria has aligned more closely with Russia’s perspective, Moscow has attempted to add an economic vector to its cooperation with the UAE against Islamic extremism. Russian officials insist that investments in an Assad-led reconstruction process are necessary for Syria’s long-term stability. In spite of the recent arrival of Emirati business delegations to Damascus, Mohammed Baharoon, the director of the Dubai-based Bhuth Institute, contends that UAE officials will not sanction state-led investments in Syria until they receive assurances about the country’s stability and security.63
Although Russia and the UAE disagree on the scheduling of reconstruction investments and on Iran’s role in Syria, shared narratives on extremism in Libya could further bolster the degree of cohesion between the strong-state approaches of Russia and the UAE to confronting Islamism in Syria. Since Khalifa Haftar began his offensive against Tripoli in April 2018, Anwar Gargash has sounded the alarm about “extremist militias” in the Government of National Accord (GNA) coalition,64 and Putin has warned about a spread of terrorism from Idlib to Libya.65 While Russia has balanced favorable relations with the GNA and LNA, Russian Ministry of Defense officials have become increasingly receptive to the UAE’s argument that Haftar’s triumph would create a “strong state” bulwark against extremism.66 Russia’s solidarity with the UAE’s Libya strategy is exemplified by its alleged deployment of PMCs to Libya and repeated efforts to shield Haftar from criticism in the UN Security Council. The simultaneous emergence of Syria and Libya as spheres of counterterrorism cooperation suggests that Russia-UAE collaboration against the threat of Islamism will remain a durable feature of their bilateral relationship for the foreseeable future.
COLLECTIVE SECURITY IN THE PERSIAN GULF?
Although the Russia-UAE partnership has principally translated into foreign-policy collaboration against shared threats, Moscow also wishes to cooperate with Abu Dhabi on the construction of a more stable collective-security architecture for the Persian Gulf. On the surface, Russian and Emirati visions for regional security appear irreconcilable. Russia’s approach calls for expansive dialogue between Iran, the GCC states and other regional stakeholders that would be overseen by multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the GCC and the Arab League.67 Russia also views a normalization of relations between Qatar and the Anti-Terrorism Quartet (ATQ) of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, as an essential precondition for a stable regional order. The UAE’s support for President Donald Trump’s maximum-pressure strategy towards Iran and its leadership role in the isolation of Qatar differ drastically from Russia’s collective-security vision. The prospect of the UAE reversing course on either of these policies is remote.
Even though there is little potential for a wholesale convergence of Russian and Emirati views on Gulf security, dialogue between Russia and the UAE on the de-escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf has increased. In July, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan traveled to Moscow immediately after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,68 and on August 31, Mikhail Bogdanov pitched Russia’s Gulf security vision to Anwar Gargash in Dubai.69 The frequency of consultations between Russian and Emirati officials on Gulf security requires an explanation. Although the overarching strategic visions of Russia and the UAE on Gulf security differ markedly, common ideas on preserving regional stability provide an understated source of cohesion. These ideational synergies, which include a shared opposition to a pre-emptive military strike against Iran and a desire for multipolar engagement on Gulf security, are overlaid by shared geopolitical interests and could cause Gulf security to emerge as the third pillar of the Russia-UAE strategic partnership.
Since the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, the prospect of a pre-emptive U.S.-led military strike against Iran, triggered by Tehran’s disruptive maritime security policies and attacks on oil installations in the Gulf, has risen precipitously. Due to its strengthening partnership with Iran and longstanding opposition to U.S.-led military interventions, Russia has emerged as one of the international community’s most strident critics of a pre-emptive U.S. strike on Iran. Vladimir Putin has publicly described a potential U.S.-Iran military confrontation as a “catastrophe,”70 and the Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that Iran would receive international support in the event of a U.S. military strike.71 Although the UAE is widely expected to be a critical protagonist in a U.S.-led military strike against Iran, and Russian officials have alluded to Saudi and Emirati influence over Trump’s Iran policy, Abu Dhabi has recently tried to reassure the international community of its desire to avoid war with Iran. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed’s July visit to Moscow provided one of the earliest indicators of the UAE’s policy re-evaluation, as he distanced himself from U.S. allegations that Iran perpetrated the May 2019 oil tanker attacks. Russian officials viewed Sheikh Abdullah’s decision to visit Moscow shortly after meeting with Pompeo to be proof of the UAE’s willingness to de-escalate tensions.72 The UAE’s calls for “wisdom and political solutions” to prevail over “confrontation and escalation” in the aftermath of the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by U.S. forces further aligns Abu Dhabi with Russia’s collective-security vision.73
Russia’s growing optimism that the UAE would oppose a U.S.-led pre-emptive strike against Iran and act as a restraining force in the Gulf region is rooted in historical memory. On March 1, 2003, less than three weeks before the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the UAE distinguished itself from its regional counterparts by urging President Saddam Hussein to resign and seek asylum, in order to prevent a U.S.-led war.74 Marcelle Wahba, the U.S. ambassador to the UAE from 2001 to 2004, stated that the UAE’s trade lifelines depended on the “stability of the region” and that Abu Dhabi was determined to “do everything in its power to avoid war.”75 The UAE’s efforts to act as a voice of restraint in the lead-up to the Iraq War resonated in Moscow, as Putin had sent former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to Baghdad on February 24 and March 17 with a similar agenda of convincing Saddam to stand down.76 Although Russia’s desire for softer sanctions against Iraq clashed with the UAE’s support for Baghdad’s economic isolation, Abu Dhabi’s stance on the Iraq war impressed upon Russian officials the intrinsic pragmatism of Emirati foreign policy. As the UAE and Russia both have a vested interest in preserving oil-price stability, Moscow believes it can find similar common ground with Abu Dhabi on the need to avoid war with Iran.
The mutual desire of Russia and the UAE to address collective-security challenges in the Persian Gulf through multipolar engagement further strengthens their ideational partnership. Since the latter stages of the Cold War, multipolarity has been a cardinal principle of Russian foreign policy. This concept allows for non-Western powers to challenge U.S. hegemony and is grounded in multilateral consensus-based decision making. Russia has stepped up its efforts to reach out to Arab countries on these grounds, even in the aftermath of the oft-cited high-water mark of U.S. unipolarity, the 1991 Gulf War.77 Due to its rejection of a hierarchical approach to international order and desire to balance positive relations between the United States and non-Western powers, the UAE has been especially receptive to Russia’s vision of a multipolar world order.78 Yevgeny Primakov, the primary exponent of Russia’s vision of multipolarity on the world stage, played an instrumental role in establishing the Russian-Arab Business Council. This council has an active presence in Dubai and contributed to positive evaluations of Moscow’s multipolarity concept in the UAE.79
The UAE’s willingness to engage with Russia on Gulf security, even though it is an integral member of the U.S.-backed Middle East Strategic Alliance, exemplifies Abu Dhabi’s support for a multipolar approach to Gulf security. The UAE believes Russia deserves a seat at the table on collective security issues, due to its status as the primary non-Western power involved in crisis diplomacy in the Middle East. Li-Chen Sim, a professor at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University, argues that the UAE has engaged with Russia’s Gulf-security plan because it “seeks Russia’s cooperation on de-escalating regional conflicts and wishes to leverage Russia’s hitherto successful ‘friends with everyone, enemies with none’ diplomatic approach in the wider Middle East.”80
The close linkage between Russia’s concepts of multipolarity and support for non-interference in regional crises also resonates in the UAE, and Russia’s refusal to unilaterally intervene in domestic crises within the Arabian Peninsula has earned it respect in Abu Dhabi. Russia’s refusal to comment on the UAE’s military intervention in Socotra in May 2018, in spite of deep reservations about Abu Dhabi’s conduct, exemplifies this important facet of the Russia-UAE strategic partnership.81 The Qatar crisis heralded a brief departure from Russia’s adherence to non-interference in intra-Gulf affairs. Sergei Lavrov used his March 2019 visit to the Gulf to lay out potential concessions that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar could make to restore unity within the GCC.82 This failed unilateral intervention in intra-Gulf affairs will likely cause Moscow to confine its involvement in the Qatar crisis to that of a great-power messenger for Kuwait’s mediation efforts, instead of being an independent arbiter.83 If Russia sticks to this role and does not impede the UAE’s vision of acting as an independent regional power, Abu Dhabi will likely continue consulting with Moscow on a de-escalation with Iran, energy security and Yemen. This will add further weight to the strategic partnership.
Although Russia’s growing alignment with Iran and rapprochement with Saudi Arabia have captured the attention of U.S. policy makers, Moscow views the establishment of a strategic partnership with the UAE as a cardinal success in its resurgence as a great power in the Middle East. While the steady expansion of Russia-UAE cooperation on crisis diplomacy, counterterrorism and collective security in the post-2015 period is noteworthy, the story of the Moscow-Abu Dhabi bilateral relationship has been one of near-consistent improvement since the end of the Second Chechen War. Common ideas on domestic state order, Islamist movements and, most recently, on the parameters of escalation with Iran, have acted as critical bonds of cohesion between Russia and the UAE. As Russia seeks to install itself as an important stakeholder in Syria, Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa, which are also areas of vital interest for the UAE, the importance of the bilateral relationship will commensurately rise. Although the UAE remains convinced that its strategic partnership with Russia will not undercut its alliance with Washington, U.S. policymakers will be well advised to pay more attention to Moscow’s interactions with Abu Dhabi on regional crises in the months and years to come.
1 “UAE, Russia Forge Strategic Partnership,” Gulf News, June 1, 2018, https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/uae-russia-forge-strategic-partners….
2 “Russia’s Putin Signs Deals Worth $1.3bn During UAE Visit,” Al Jazeera English, October 15, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/russia-putin-signs-deals-worth-1….
3 Clayton Thomas, Arms Sales in the Middle East: Trends and Analytical Perspectives for U.S. Policy, CRS Report No. R44984, October 11 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2017), 17, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R44984.pdf.
4 Sergei Karaganov, “Novaya ideologicheskaya borba” [The New Ideological Struggle], Izvestiya, April 21, 2016, https://iz.ru/news/610812.
5 Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Contemporary Socio-Political Issues of the Arab Gulf Moment, LSE Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States, The Center for the Study of Global Governance, No. 11 (September 2010), 23,https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/19578257.pdf.
6 Matt Kwong, “Democracy Wrong Choice for the UAE,” The National (UAE), April 19, 2009, https://www.pressreader.com/uae/the-national-news/20090418/281582351568….
7 Ingo Forstenlechner, Emilie Rutledge and Rashed Salem Alnuaimi, “The UAE, the ‘Arab Spring,’ and Different Types of Dissent,” Middle East Policy 19, no. 4 (Winter 2012): 54-67, https://www.mepc.org/uae-arab-spring-and-different-types-dissent.
8 Vladislav Vorobiev, “Plusy i minusy: Sergey Lavrov o vneshnepoliticheskikh vragakh, o vozmozhnoy voyne mezhdu SSHA i Iranom i mnogom drugom” [Pros and Cons: Sergei Lavrov on Foreign Policy Enemies, on a Possible War between the USA and Iran, and Much More], Rossiyskaya Gazeta, October 23, 2012, https://rg.ru/2012/10/23/lavrov-poln.html.
9 Ola Salem, “Gargash Urges Nations to Support Egypt,” The National (UAE), July 11, 2013, https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/gargash-urges-nations-to-supp….
10 Theodore Karasik, skype interview by author, September 21, 2019.
11 Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, email interview by author, September 30, 2019.
12 “Dmitry Medvedev Addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos,” President of Russia, January 26, 2011, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/10163.
13 “Arab Spring Reflects People’s Voice, says Shaikh Mohammad,” Gulf News, December 6, 2011, https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/arab-spring-reflects-peoples-voice-….
14 Marc Lynch, “The Stability Story,” Diwan, Carnegie Middle East Center, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 6, 2019, https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/79065.
15 Kirill Semenov, “Top Russian Security Officials Tour Egypt, Gulf to Discuss Syria, Libya,” Al-Monitor, February 5, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/02/russia-patrushev-ksa….
16 “Russia Confirms ‘Private Security Companies’ Operating amid Unrest in Sudan,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, January 24, 2019, https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-confirms-private-security-forces-sudan-d….
17 Kirill Semenov, email interview by author, October 1, 2019.
18 Khalid Abdelaziz, Michael Georgy and Maha el Dahan, “Abandoned by the UAE, Sudan’s Bashir was Destined to Fall,” Reuters, July 3, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/sudan-bashir-fall/.
19 “Sudan’s Burhan, from Relative Unknown to Regional Player,” France 24, June 3, 2019, https://www.france24.com/en/20190603-sudans-burhan-relative-unknown-reg….
20 “Russian Lawmakers Criticize Sudan Coup as ‘Unconstitutional,’” Moscow Times, April 11, 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/04/11/russian-lawmakers-criticize-s….
21 “Saudi Arabia and UAE Back Sudan’s New Military Rulers, as Protesters Vow to Resist,” The New Arab, April 14, 2019, https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2019/4/14/uae-and-saudi-arabia-b….
22 “Russia Recognizes New Sudanese Authorities, Diplomat Says,” TASS, April 16, 2019,https://tass.com/politics/1053949.
23 Maxim Suchkov (academic at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, MGIMO University), email interview by author, October 2, 2019.
24 Semenov, “Top Russian Security Officials Tour Egypt.”
25 Khalid Abdelaziz, “Saudi Arabia, UAE to Send $3 billion in Aid to Sudan,” Reuters, April 21, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-sudan-protests/saudi-arabia-uae-to-s….
26 Luke Harding and Jason Burke, “Leaked Documents Reveal Russia’s Effort to Exert Influence in Africa,” Guardian (UK), June 11, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/11/leaked-documents-reveal-r….
28 Ravil Mustafin, “Sudanskiy krizis svyazal stolitsu Moskvy i Arabskikh stran” [Sudanese Crisis Connected Moscow and Arabian Capitals], Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 6, 2019, http://www.ng.ru/kartblansh/2019-06-05/3_7591_kart.html.
29 Christian Lowe, “Russia Says ‘Extremists’ in Sudan Must Be Subdued-RIA,” Reuters, June 6, 2019, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-sudan-politics-russia/russia-says-ext….
30 Ramadan Al Sherbini, “UAE Defends Contacts with Sudan Military,” Gulf News, June 12, 2019, https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/uae-defends-contacts-with-sudan-mil….
31 Carole Landry, “China, Russia Block UN Action on Sudan,” Agence France Presse (AFP), June 5, 2019, https://news.yahoo.com/un-security-council-meets-sudan-crisis-215258682…?
32 “UAE Hails Sudan Transition Deal,” Gulf News, July 5, 2019, https://gulfnews.com/world/mena/uae-hails-sudan-transition-deal-1.15622….
33 “MID Rossii: Moskva privetstvuyet podpisaniye Konstitutsionnoy Deklaratsii v Sudane” [Russian Foreign Ministry: Moscow Welcomes the Signing of the Constitutional Declaration of Sudan], TASS, August 19, 2019, https://tass.ru/politika/6775920.
34 Andeas Krieg, email interview by author, October 3, 2019.
35 “Tolko voyennye mogut konsolidirov Sudan, schitayet ekspert” [Only Military Can Consolidate Sudan, Expert Believes], RIA Novosti, August 19, 2019, https://ria.ru/20190819/1557631341.html.
36 Shireen Hunter, Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2003), 386-387.
37 Courtney Jean Freer, Rentier Islamism: The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gulf Monarchies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 102.
38 “Otvety Sekretarya Soveta Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii N.P. Patrusheva v svyazi s 20-letiyem otdela na voprosy korrespondenta Interfaksa” [Answers of the Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation N.P. Patrushev in Connection with the 20th Anniversary of the Department to Questions from an Interfax Correspondent], SCRF, June 1, 2012.
39 “Lavrov: ‘Arabskaya Vesna’ sdelala strany Blizhnego Vostoka nesposbnymi protivostoyat terrorizmu” [Lavrov: “The Arab Spring” Made the Countries of the Middle East Incapable of Confronting Terrorism], MK.Ru (Moskovsky Komsomolets), December 20, 2015, https://www.mk.ru/politics/2015/12/20/lavrov-arabskaya-vesna-sdelala-st….
40 Ayesha Al Khoori, “Arab Spring Revolutions Led to Extremism, Tweets UAE Minister of State,” The National (UAE), June 30, 2015, https://www.thenational.ae/uae/arab-spring-revolutions-led-to-extremism….
41 Mairbek Vatchagaev, “Chechnya Hosts International Islamic Conference,” Eurasia Daily Monitor (Jamestown Foundation) 1, no. 152, September 22, 2016, https://jamestown.org/program/chechnya-hosts-international-islamic-conf….
42 Bernardo Cervellera, “Conference in Grozny: Wahhabism Exclusion from the Sunni Community Provokes Riyadh’s Wrath,” AsiaNews.it, September 6, 2016, http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Conference-in-Grozny:-Wahhabism-exclusio….
43 Viacheslav Matuzov (head of the Lebanese and Palestinian affairs desks for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union international department from 1974 to 1989), telephone interview by author, September 24, 2018.
44 Krieg, Interview.
45 Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics and Policymaking (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2017), 153.
46 Theodore Karasik and Giorgio Cafiero, “Geopolitics Drives Russia and the U.A.E. Closer,” Middle East Institute, April 4, 2017, https://www.mei.edu/publications/geopolitics-drive-russia-and-uae-closer.
47 Daniel Sanderson, “UAE to Step up Support for Economy in Chechnya,” The National (UAE), December 27, 2018, https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/uae-to-step-up-support-for-ec….
48 Henry Meyer, Brad Cook and Ilya Arkhipov, “Russia Warns U.S., EU Not to Aid Syria Protests after Libya,” Bloomberg, June 2, 2011, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-06-01/russia-warns-u-s-nat….
49 Roy Allison, “Russia and Syria: Explaining Alignment with a Regime in Crisis,” International Affairs 89, no. 4 (July 2013): 813, https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2346.12046.
50 Bassam Barabandi, email interview by author, October 6, 2019.
51 Frederic Wehrey, “Gulf Calculations in the Syrian Conflict,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 9, 2014, https://carnegieendowment.org/2014/06/09/gulf-calculations-in-syrian-co….
52 Ian Black, “UAE’s Leading Role Against ISIS Reveals Its Wider Ambitions,” Guardian (UK), October 30, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/30/uae-united-arab-emirates-….
53 “UAE Says Ready to Commit Troops to Fight IS in Syria,” Middle East Eye, November 30, 2015, https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/uae-says-ready-commit-troops-fight-s….
54 Ruslan Mamedov, “What Russia Wants in Syria,” Russian International Affairs Council, September 30, 2019, https://russiancouncil.ru/en/analytics-and-comments/interview/what-russ….
55 Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, email interview by author, September 30, 2019.
56 Hassan Hassan, “Syria: Assad Has Decisively Won His Brutal Battle,” Guardian (UK), December 30, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/30/syria-year-cemented-assad….
57 “Syrian Crisis Can Not Be Resolved Via Military Solutions – UAE Foreign Minister,” Sputnik, April 10, 2018, https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201804101063407594-syria-crisis-not-….
58 Giorgio Cafiero, “The Afrin Factor in Turkey-UAE Relations,” LobeLog, September 5, 2018, https://lobelog.com/the-afrin-factor-in-turkey-uae-relations/.
59 Vladimir Lepekhin, “Vozmozhen il soyuz Rossil s Kurdami protiv Turtsii” [Is Russia’s Alliance with the Kurds Against Turkey Possible?], RIA Novosti, December 28, 2015, https://ria.ru/20151228/1350594925.html
60 “Saudi Arabia, UAE Condemn Turkey’s Actions in Syria,” Gulf News, October 9, 2019, https://gulfnews.com/uae/government/saudi-arabia-uae-condemn-turkeys-ac….
61 Olesya Astakhova and Andrew Osborn, “Russia Says ‘Unacceptable’ Turkish Incursion into Syria Must Be Temporary,” Reuters, October 15, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-turkey-russia/russia-….
62 “UAE Praises Syria’s Assad for ‘Wise Leadership,’ Cementing Ties,” Egypt Independent, December 4, 2019, https://egyptindependent.com/uae-praises-syrias-assad-for-wise-leadersh….
63 Mohammed Baharoon, skype interview by author, September 26, 2019.
64 Aziz El Yaakoubi, “Haftar’s Ally UAE Says ‘Extremist Militias’ Control Libyan Capital,” Reuters, May 2, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-emirates/haftars-ally…-.
65 “Putin Warns That Militants Are Flowing into Libya from Syria’s Idlib,” Reuters, June 4, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-libya-security-putin/putin-warns-tha….
66 Semenov, interview.
67 “Russia’s Collective Security Concept for the Persian Gulf Region,” Press Conference by Chargé d’Affaires of the Russian Federation Dmitry Polyanskiy, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, August 8, 2019, https://russiaun.ru/en/news/press_conference080819
68 Marianna Belenkaya, “Why Did UAE Foreign Minister Go to Russia Following His Meeting with Pompeo?” Al-Monitor, July 1, 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/06/russia-uae-us-iran-e….
69 “Rusia y Emiratos Arabes Unidos abordan la situación en Oriente Medio” [Russia and the United Arab Emirates Address the Situation in the Middle East], Sputnik Mundo, August 31, 2019, https://mundo.sputniknews.com/oriente-medio/201908311088551907-rusia-y-….
70 “Putin Says U.S. Attack on Iran Would Be a Catastrophe,” Reuters, June 20, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-iran-usa-putin/putin-says-u-….
71 “Iran ‘Won’t Be Alone’ if U.S. Attacks, Russian Official Says,” Moscow Times, June 26, 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/06/26/iran-wont-be-alone-if-us-atta…
72 Belenkaya, “Why Did UAE Foreign Minister Go to Russia.”
73 “UAE Calls for Wisdom to Avert Confrontation after Soleimani Killing,” Khaleej Times, January 4, 2020, https://www.khaleejtimes.com/news/general/uae-calls-for-wisdom-to-avert….
74 “UAE Proposes Exile for Saddam Hussein,” Irish Times, March 1, 2003, https://www.irishtimes.com/news/uae-proposes-exile-for-saddam-hussein-1….
75 Marcelle Wahba, email interview by author, October 1, 2019.
76 Veniamin Popov (former Russian ambassador to the UAE), interview by author, Moscow, September 10, 2017.
77 Alexey Vasiliev, Russia’s Middle East Policy: From Lenin to Putin (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018), 297.
78 Mohammed Baharoon, skype interview by author, September 26, 2019.
79 Theodore Karasik, “Russia’s Financial Tactics in the Middle East,” Russia in the Middle East, Jamestown Foundation, December 20, 2017, https://jamestown.org/program/russias-financial-tactics-middle-east/.
80 Li-Chen Sim, email interview by author, October 6, 2019.
81 Yury Barmin (Moscow-based analyst), interview by author, Moscow, September 10, 2018.
82 Nikolay Kozhanov and Leonid Issaev, “Russian Influence in the Gulf Has Its Limits,” Al Jazeera English, April 5, 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/russian-influence-gulf-limits….
83 “Qatar Crisis Opens up Opportunities for Russian Mediation,” Expert Discussion-Gulf Crisis: Political Implications for the Middle East, Valdai Discussion Club, September 29, 2017, http://valdaiclub.com/events/posts/articles/qatar-crisis-opportunities-….