On December 15, the Valdai Discussion Club held an expert discussion about the prospects of cooperation between Russia and the United States against the backdrop of a changing reality in the Middle East.
The relations between the United States and Russia are arguably worse now than they were during the Cold War. However, the one place where their interests naturally converge is the Middle East but the dilemma is whether Russia and the US can overcome the legacy of the Cold War and the various issues on which they do not see eye to eye to shape the Middle East towards the benefit of both.
US-Russia cooperation to defeat ISIS did not emerge out of altruism. It emerged out of cold geopolitical logic – Russia was facing a political crisis in Ukraine and an economic crisis due to low oil prices. The US on the other hand had pushed itself in the corner with its redline on chemical weapons use and its desire to get rid of Assad.
Now that the Islamic State is defeated, the region enters a new and dangerous phase: Saudi Arabia’s future is tenuous, Egypt is in economic turmoil and Israel is up for trouble in the Arab world after the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the US. Two countries that are historical rivals of Russia and with which the US has complicated relationships – Turkey and Iran – will compete for control of the region. Russia and the US share the same overall interest – to prevent one power from dominating the entire region, and to ensure a modicum of political and social stability in one of the most unstable regions in the world.
Jacob Shapiro, Director of Analysis for Geopolitical Futures, GPF
Maxim Suchkov, Editor of the US edition of Al-Monitor