Over the past decade Russia has returned as a more active actor in this region. The return of Russia has triggered a new dynamic in the region where also other actors have vital interests. Russia’s attitude towards conflicts in the region in the wake of the Arab spring and Russia’s direct intervention in the war in Syria have resulted in renewed interest in Russian power practices.
The RUSMENA project uses the concept of repertoire of power as an analytical tool to examine Russian power practices in the MENA region – 20 countries stretching from Iran in the east to Morocco in the west. When intervening in the region Russia bundles various instruments of power together to achieve its strategic objectives.
We assume that the way Russia uses various instruments of power is rooted in Russian strategic culture and that Russia combines traditional power practices with new approaches to power to achieve these objectives in the most efficient manner. ‘Repertoire of power’ is in this project understood as a set of available policy options and a relatively stable array of tactics that countries traditionally employ when competing for influence, in this case in a region that is strategically important not only to Russia, but also to other great powers.
The MENA region always has been an area of great-power competition. As one of the great powers competing for influence, Russia has employed various instruments of power to pursue its goals and has been able to fill a power niche, conducting a surprisingly active, cost-effective and challenging policy in the region. By examining continuity, variation, change and innovation in Russian approaches to the region this project will seek to obtain a more nuanced and detailed picture of crucial aspects of Russian policymaking in the region, and more generally.
The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway under the NORRUSS/UTENRIKS programme.