The Russian role in the Arab region and the world was discussed at the eighth panel of the fourth Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, titled “Russia: Old Lenses for a New World”. The panelists examined Moscow’s political and strategic considerations in relation to its international relationships.

The participants of the panel were: Dr. Sergey Karaganov, Dean of the Faculty of International Economics and Foreign Affairs at the National Research University-Higher School of Economics, Paul Saunders, executive director of the Center for the National Interest and member of the Centre’s board of directors, Dr. Andrey Bystritskiy, chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow, and Dr. Timur Makhmutov, deputy director of programs at the Russian International Affairs Council.

Dr. Karaganov said that Russia does not want to re-create a global bipolar system, and it doesn’t seek to fill the vacuum created by the diminishing American role in the region, rather it wants Washington to become more embroiled in the crises of the Middle East.

On the other hand, Mr. Saunders said that Russia wishes to become a major player in the world order and in the Arab region; however, it refuses to pay the cost that entails. He pointed to the difference between US president Donald Trump’s viewpoint of Russia, who looks to the country from the perspective of a businessman, and his administration’s viewpoint of Russia, which considers it a strategic threat, specifically in terms of Russia’s relationship with Iran, and its interferencee in Syria and Ukraine.

Other researchers said the main dilemma Russia is facing in the region, is how to handle the conflicting interests of its allies without affecting its relationship with each of them, referencing its involvement in the Syrian crisis as an example.

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