Image: TASS

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West, led by the USA, tried to attract the Muslims and Arabs to affect the two major super powers countering the West: Russia and China. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, a new world map was formed based on influence, where many world states felt forced to orbit around the American sphere. After President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, this world map started to change and this has witnessed an era of alliances and coalitions led by Russia which signed various agreements with China, Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and strategic Middle Eastern states such as Syria, Iraq, Algeria, ending the era of unipolarity.

From pain to gain

Under the rule of President Putin, Russia has become a key player at the international arena after long absence, burning all cards the West has at the world map. Russians, who stood behind and by their leadership and suffered for years from economic hardships, survived this turmoil successfully by turning their pain into gain. They have put all their weight behind their leadership and have worked strenuously to regain the glory of their ancestors. Arabs and Muslim have not witnessed any rift throughout their lives with the Russians; they coexisted for many years and they cooperated with each other. In the recent, history, one would recall the existence of Russian presence in the Arab world in the 1950s and 1960s when Russia has contributed to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt to produce electricity for the whole country. The dam was built with a grant from the Soviet Union with US$1 billion. The dam has been a mega project built to benefit the Egyptians. This dam is still producing the necessary water for irrigation and for generating power until now.

The High Dam (AFP)

This is what Russians bestow upon other countries: strategic long term projects which the generations to come would benefit from. This is not the only project that Russian contributed to Egypt but rather it helped Egyptians build their steel factories and plants to produce some equipment. It was the Russians who stopped the tripartite aggression on Egypt in 1956. The Russians were the ones who trained the Egyptian army on the use of Russian weapons which were shipped to Egypt in the 1960s and 1970s. Soviet Union President Nikita Khrushchev ordered his army to support the Egyptian army during the era of President Jamal Abdul Nasser, by sending Russian weapons and equipment to the Egyptian army. In Algeria, the Soviet Union helped the country to explore for gas and oil.

Petrol and Gas Plant Algeria (Bloomberg)

It assisted Algerians to build their steel factories. Most of the Algerian weapons are Russian-made.

Getty Image

Who can forget the stand and support of Russians to the Syrian issue by unveiling the real image of those who oppose the Syrian government and who want to change the Syrian government by force. It was the Russians who proved that 99 per cent of the opposition is not Syrian, and they came from other countries to fight on the Syrian soil to establish the caliphate. Based on well-established beliefs that no one has to change any democratic regime by force, Russia supported the right against the evil in Syria and supported the government in Egypt.
The new Russian strategy in the Middle East and North Africa region as well as in the Muslim world is not only restricted to economic ties; there are arm deals and security cooperation to counter terrorism. Another country which is important to Russia is Morocco due to its strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean which makes it close to Europe, America and Central Africa. It is remarkable that Russia has not dictated on these countries any ideologies or programs of cooperation which makes them free to pick: Russia or the US.
Russia’s ties with Arab and Muslim states have mutual benefit. Russia as an industrial country needs the uranium, gold, cobalt in Africa and as these countries look for Russian arms and machinery. In 2015, Russia, the second largest defense products supplier, exported more than US$15 billion worth of weapons and is targeting to increase this number in 2016. The top 4 consumers in the world for Russia weapons are India (40%), Vietnam (10%), China (5%) and the Middle East (6%).

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Russia and the Muslim World: Prospects of Cooperation and Development Part I