Russia’s foreign policy is usually closely linked to security issues in Europe, but it would be dangerous to forget where the confrontation with the West is most heated: the Middle East. Moscow has a long history of intervention in the Islamic world, from the Soviet backing of Nasser up until the intervention in Syria and the friendly relationship to Hezbollah and Iran. This book has been written at the start of Putin’s third mandate, so it suffers from a lack of hindsight we have now: it doesn’t touch upon the Crimean annexation and the Civil War in Syria is only touched upon. Nevertheless it presents itself as an interesting analysis of what guided Putin’s policy towards Russia’s southern border in the years running up to the “New Cold War” and the US renewed hostility towards Iran. This, among a very long initial introduction to Russia’s idea of “power spheres” and security environment since the 1990s, is the book’s greatest weakness, an yet it’s also its greatest strength, as it allows for a clearheaded analyis of the topic. Still, the reader expecting a lecture purely on Russian middle east policy will find something more: the book book which complements the topic in the context of larger policy attitidues, which is probably the only sensible way to truly understand the reasons behind them.
Putin’s New Order in the Middle East, by Talal Nizameddin. 358 pages.