Libmonster ID: U.S.-1525
Author(s) of the publication: V. M. AKHMEDOV
Educational Institution \ Organization: Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

The advent of the third millennium represents an important milestone in the historical development of the Arab countries and organically coincides with the formation of elements of a new structure of international relations. In the transition period of its internal development, Russia is at an important stage of rethinking national and state interests in both domestic and foreign policy. The problem of finding a harmonious combination of various spheres of Russian interests abroad, the optimal balance between the western and eastern directions of the country's foreign policy activity, the corresponding efforts and their effectiveness in terms of strengthening Russia's authority in the international arena and stabilizing the domestic political and socio-economic situation in the country is becoming extremely urgent.

Russia's inevitable involvement in the process of forming a new system of international relations determines its practical participation in events in the Arab world and in the Middle East as a whole. In the last years of its existence, the Soviet Union faced an urgent need to develop fundamentally new approaches to its policy in the region, to bring it in line with the tasks of forming a multipolar system of international relations, replacing the bipolar confrontational world. The solution to this problem, inherited by Russia from the former USSR, seems to consist not simply in restoring the old structure of political and economic ties with Arab countries, but in building on their basis a new practice of mutual cooperation and a different understanding of Russian national interests.

In addition, after the collapse of the USSR, the development of the international and regional situation led to the fact that both Russia and the states of the Middle East actually found themselves in a single geopolitical, geostrategic space with a sharply increased interdependence and interdependence of the political and economic processes taking place here. In particular, we are talking about the formation of new geopolitical realities to the south of our country, the essence of which is the formation of a belt of states close in religion, stretching from the Middle East region directly to the borders of Russia, as a result of the formation of independent states in Transcaucasia and Central Asia. In this regard, the Middle East region is particularly important for the realization of Russian interests in the southern zone of the former Soviet Union. At the same time, the current situation in the Middle East is very difficult and potentially dangerous for Russia, since new geopolitical realities can be formed here without Russia's participation and due consideration of its interests.

An analysis of developments in the region shows that relations between the Middle Eastern States are still relations between the two countries.

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national "centers of power". The nature of relations between the main elements of the system of international relations, despite various multilateral forms of interaction, is still determined primarily by the parameters of national power of States.

Since the Middle East is a zone of dangerous international conflicts, the prospects for resolving which remain quite problematic, the events taking place there directly affect Russia's national and state interests, primarily in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In this regard, stability and predictability of the development of the political and geostrategic situation in the Middle East, in the regions adjacent to our borders and the borders of the CIS, as well as ensuring lasting peace and security, is an imperative of Russia's foreign policy in the Middle East. Reducing the level of confrontationalism there will help neutralize similar or similar destructive processes on the territory of Russia and within the borders of the post-Soviet geopolitical space.

Due to its geographical location, the Middle East is unlikely to remain on the periphery of international and regional military - political layouts for long. In this regard, Russia is extremely interested in the non-participation of the countries of the region in military-political alliances, which, at least in hypothetical terms, could pose a threat to the state interests and security of the Russian Federation, as well as in ensuring the free guaranteed passage of our ships through the Bosporus and Dardanelles and their access to the World Ocean through the Mediterranean Sea.

The importance of the region as one of the main sources of energy resources, the most important junction of global communications, and a large market for selling goods for hard currency is also preserved. In this regard, the category of long-term Russian interests in the Middle East includes creating favorable conditions for the optimal development of Russia's cooperation with the countries of the region, Russian participation in their economic development projects on a bilateral and multilateral basis, and access of our goods, including those of a military-technical nature, to the markets of these countries.

Russia's acquisition of the status of the USSR's legal successor in international affairs and thus the" title " of a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process imposes serious obligations on it. And matching this role and ensuring our interests in practice not only requires the presence of sufficient economic and military-technical potential, but also implies active measures to realize this potential when conducting its foreign policy in the region.

Unfortunately, until now, Russia has not been able to develop clear guidelines for its policy in the Middle East. Growing divergences in Russia's assessment of the situation in the Middle East and its choice of priorities are disorienting its neighbors and weakening the country's position in the Middle East.

At the same time, despite the political and economic difficulties it is experiencing, Russia has considerable strategic scope for activating its policy in the Middle East, and a wide range of its historical ties with Arab countries and the experience of relations with Israel accumulated over the past decade create prerequisites for strengthening Russia's role in the region as a significant economic powerhouse. and political power.

The tragedy that occurred on September 11 last year in the United States once again showed how disastrous and large-scale in its consequences can be the results of ignoring or underestimating the processes taking place in the region. Meanwhile, the events of recent years in Algeria and Sudan, Dagestan and the Ferghana Valley, some

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other regions of the world reveal a number of important trends in the recent history of Islam, the essence of which, in our opinion, boils down to the simultaneous activation of religious and political movements of a certain orientation in the countries of the Muslim area from Morocco to Indonesia and from Sudan to Tatarstan. Of course, it would be wrong and premature to say that the current processes in the world of Islam are completely devoid of theological depth. However, as numerous examples from foreign and domestic practice show, the latest socio-political trends operating under the flag of Islam are less inclined to the religious and theological sphere and spiritual self-knowledge. They are mostly implemented in the field of ideology and socio-political activities, which often leads to an escalation of extremism and violence, religious intolerance and terror, including in relation to co-religionists who are "unrighteous" from the point of view of adherents of these trends, as well as subversive actions against existing state entities. The recent defeats of the adherents of some of these movements in the military sphere in Algeria, Dagestan, Chechnya, in parliamentary practice in Turkey, Sudan, and in the sphere of domestic politics in Iran and Saudi Arabia can obviously push them to more radical measures and decisive actions of a revanchist nature.

In recent decades Terrorism and extremism have become inseparable companions of the states of the Middle East and significantly increased its conflict potential, the essence of which in the past was reduced by mass consciousness mainly to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the confrontation between the two world systems.

In the alignment of political forces in the Middle East, one of the key countries is Syria. Syrian society is characterized by a historically formed multi-confessional nature, the presence of religious communities that are different in size and degree of consolidation and influence on the internal political life, as well as a strict state policy aimed at preventing religious and inter-communal discord. Over the past few years, there has been a tendency in the country to Islamize society and politicize believers. This creates favorable social and ideological prerequisites for the emergence, under certain circumstances, of serious contradictions in society, their exploitation by various forces inside Syria and abroad for their own purposes.

Despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was active in Syria in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Islamist groups associated with it, were completely defeated in the period from 1963 to 1982. An analysis of the current ideological and religious situation in Syria indicates an increase in the activity of Islamists, who generally speak out from positions opposed to the political regime. Along with the occasional veiled criticism of the authorities, regular sermons in mosques (of which there are about 2,500 in the country) note the creation of new Islamist organizations that oppose the authorities. Thus, at the beginning of 1996, local special services uncovered an organization of so-called Syrian Wahhabis operating illegally in the Syrian Arab Republic (CAP) since the end of 1995, with strongholds in Damascus and Aleppo, which included representatives of the technical intelligentsia and whose activities were financed by part of the Sunni commercial bourgeoisie of Damascus. The main reasons for the activation of Islamists in the CAP, as observers and even representatives of the official authorities believe, were: a decrease in the standard of living of the population; a deterioration in its social security in general; the growth of youth unemployment; ideological pressure from the established regime on the creative intelligentsia; the expansion of the poorest strata of the population due to the erosion of the middle class; a kind of demonstration effect from the implementation of policies by a number of states in the region aimed at:-

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political support for local religious organizations and their leadership; the long-standing and deep involvement of Damascus in the internecine struggle of various faiths in neighboring Lebanon 1

At present, the authorities are more concerned not so much with the internal radical Islamic opposition itself, which, despite a number of annoying overlaps, is generally tightly controlled by security agencies, but rather with its links with foreign Islamist organizations and the process of mass Islamization of Syrian society. The main task they see here is to give this process a controlled character, to prevent it from developing into a threat to the existing regime.

At the same time, President Hafez al-Assad's attempts to create a so-called Sunni-dominated Islamic party led by prominent members of the CAP M religious establishment ended in failure. Sheikho and R. Buti, in order to further integrate it into the existing political structure - the Progressive National Front and thus channel pro-Islamist sentiments in a legal direction.

The CAP leadership is committed to maintaining and strengthening ties with opposition Islamic forces in Arab countries. The reason for this is the current state of the Middle East settlement process and the need to solve related foreign policy tasks 2 It is no exaggeration to say that Syria is still one of the key figures in the protracted Arab - Israeli confrontation. This international position of Syria is largely due to the unprecedented by the political standards of the region almost 30 - year rule of X. Assad, during which the country was virtually free of political upheaval and, despite numerous problems, primarily related to the diversion of huge resources to defense and security, was able to achieve serious success in the economy, at least protected itself from the threat of failure in the most vulnerable area - food supply. The rise to power of X. President Bashar al-Assad and the start of the reformist movement he proclaimed marked a new stage in Syria's domestic and foreign policy. The international image of the country at that time was largely determined by its leader. His personal contribution to turning Syria into a full-fledged and equal partner in interstate relations is exceptionally great. It is at X. Assad's development of Soviet-Syrian ties has reached its peak, and he has never forgotten the advantages that Damascus enjoyed from its special relationship with Moscow.

A positive foundation for the establishment of relations with Syria was laid by the position of the Soviet Union in February 1946 at the UN. The USSR supported the right of Syria and Lebanon to full independence and called for the immediate and simultaneous evacuation of French and British troops from the territory of these countries. During the Cold War, the Eastern Mediterranean was of great strategic importance for the West, especially the United States, both for establishing military bases there and for fighting against national liberation movements that relied mainly on the support of the USSR.

The current situation in the region pushed the Arabs to move closer to the Soviet Union. In November 1955, the diplomatic mission of Syria in Moscow and the mission of the USSR in Damascus received the status of embassies. At the end of 1956, the Syrian government concluded trade and payment agreements with the GDR, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, as well as with Czechoslovakia, on the purchase of weapons produced in the USSR. In August 1957, the Syrian Defense Minister signed an agreement on military and economic cooperation in Moscow, and in September of the same year, a Soviet naval squadron visited the Syrian port of Latakia. In October 1957, in Damascus, there was a signing of the-

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An agreement on economic and technical cooperation between the USSR and CAP was signed.

The Ba'athist revolution in Syria on March 8, 1963, and the rise to power of the mainly petty-bourgeois Ba'ath party, which was generally progressive and proclaimed a number of socialist ideas in its program documents, expanded the opportunities for establishing dialogue and mutual understanding between the Syrian leaders and the Soviet leadership. Moscow agreed to build the Euphrates dam and increase the supply of weapons to CAP. In January 1967, Soviet-Syrian contacts began at the party level between the CPSU and the Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (PASV).

Being a pragmatic and, in fact, ideologically unbiased politician, X. Assad nevertheless realized the importance of cooperation with the USSR in strengthening Syria's defense capability and providing it with strategic support 3 The need to restore military-political balance in the region after the 1967 war required Damascus and Cairo to coordinate their military-political plans more closely with Moscow.

The strengthening of Soviet-Syrian and Soviet-Egyptian ties and the increase in military supplies to Syria and Egypt were not enough to ensure a long-term confrontation with Israel. The war of 1973 was a kind of peak of the USSR's "involvement" in the situation in the Middle East. So, in response to the organization by the Americans of an unprecedented air bridge to Israel for the urgent delivery of weapons and ammunition, the Soviet Union launched a major operation to transfer weapons by aircraft to Syria and Egypt. And the Soviet Mediterranean squadron was reinforced and concentrated in the area adjacent to the theater of operations. Despite this, the lack of coordination between Syria and Egypt has led to the loss of the advantages gained at the beginning of hostilities. On the other hand, as in 1967, the Soviet position prevented the crushing defeat of the Arabs and the change of political regimes in Egypt and Syria. The intensification of Soviet-Syrian contacts after the 1973 war strengthened bilateral relations and contributed to the establishment of close foreign policy coordination between the USSR and CAP. From March to May 1974, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union visited Syria three times, and in April of the same year X visited Syria. Assad held talks in Moscow with the Soviet leadership. All this provided Damascus with the opportunity to get more significant concessions from Israel when concluding an agreement on the separation of forces than the Egyptians managed. 4

After Egypt signed the Camp David Accords in 1979 and Egypt settled its relations with Israel separately, Syria occupied a special place in Soviet policy in the Middle East. The signing of the Soviet - Syrian Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1980 contributed to a significant intensification of cooperation between the two countries, primarily in the military-technical field. Massive deliveries of Soviet modern weapons began to be made to Syria on very favorable terms (with payment of 50% of the cost on credit for 10 years at the rate of 2% per annum). In total, until 1991, Syria was supplied with weapons and military equipment (IWT) totaling about $ 30 billion. 5

At the same time, trade and economic ties with the Soviet Union were important for the Syrian economy, especially in its leading sectors such as energy, oil, agriculture, etc. Over the years of cooperation, with the technical assistance of Soviet organizations, the Euphrates hydrotechnical complex with a hydroelectric power station with a capacity of 800 MW, the Tishrin hydroelectric complex with a capacity of 400 MW, about 1.5 thousand km of railways, 2.8 thousand km of power lines, irrigation and water management facilities providing irrigation were built in Syria

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about 60 thousand hectares of land, a nitrogen fertilizer plant in Homs, a number of vocational training centers, and oil fields have been developed in the fields discovered in the north-east of the country. Soviet organizations supplied Syria with machinery and equipment (about 75% of total exports), raw materials (about 20%), including rolled ferrous metals, steel pipes, lumber, oils, lubricants, and other goods. In turn, Syria supplied the USSR with oil, cotton, phosphates, as well as consumer goods (fabrics, knitwear, perfume and cosmetics, medicines and other goods), which accounted for 90% of total imports from CAP 6 .

With the beginning of perestroika, the USSR's position in the Middle East was significantly weakened and marginalized, which led to the curtailment of bilateral cooperation in many areas with the states of this region - the traditional partners of the Soviet Union. "New thinking" in the foreign policy of the USSR significantly changed the face and nature of international relations, including in the Middle East region. The new principles of Soviet foreign policy required a revision of the previous approach to the settlement of the Middle East conflict and relations with its main participants. The shift of foreign policy emphasis to solving global and universal problems, the unilateral refusal of the USSR to use force in international affairs and military solutions to international conflicts, the recognition of the State of Israel and the restoration of diplomatic relations with it were perceived by the majority of Arabs as a change in the strategy of Soviet foreign policy, as a departure of the Soviet Union from its previous course of maintaining strategic parity in the Middle East which was the basis of the national security concepts of most Arab States after 1979. During his visit to Moscow in April 1987. and meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev Syrian President X. Assad stated:"...Everyone is talking about rights and international norms, charters and resolutions. However, you eventually discover that all matters in the world are somehow resolved by force..." 7

Indeed, the" new thinking " of the Soviet leadership significantly influenced the CAP foreign policy doctrine and made Damascus face the need to revise its regional strategy. For quite a long time, the key component of the Syrian national security concept was the position of the Soviet Union, which was considered by Damascus as the main source of military assistance and political support, and above all a strategic partner of Syria in the event of an armed conflict in accordance with article 6 of the 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. At the same time, as even Western researchers testify, during the years of cooperation with the USSR, Syria did not turn into a Soviet satellite . The Soviet Union never set itself such a task). Moreover, relations of strategic partnership and consideration of mutual interests not only provided a significant share of independence in the CAP policy at the international and regional levels, but also created favorable conditions for it.

At the same time, Syria served as one of the most important objects of the USSR's Middle East policy. In a bipolar world, Moscow viewed Damascus as an important springboard for achieving its foreign policy goals in the Middle East. Egypt's withdrawal from the orbit of Soviet influence in the early 1970s and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan negatively affected the prestige of the USSR in the region, objectively contributing to the strengthening of American positions in the Middle East. Although the Iranian revolution of 1979 removed Iran from the sphere of US influence, the Iran-Iraq war that soon began preserved for many years the hardline Islamic regime in Iran, which proclaimed the main principle of the United States.

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its foreign policy is "neither East nor West". Syria and Iraq were the two main allies of the USSR, which at that time it could rely on to conduct its policy in the Middle East. Providing Syria with its ports in Latakia and Tartus as sea-based points for the Soviet Navy on a currency-free basis played an important role in the geopolitical strategy of the USSR, as it opened the way for Soviet ships to the Mediterranean Sea and then to the World Ocean.

Thus, the Soviet-Syrian relations that developed by the end of the 1980s were characterized by taking into account and respecting the interests of both the superpower and its regional partner. However, it is hardly possible to agree unconditionally with the statement of some Western researchers that the Soviet-Syrian relations of that time were more functional and based mainly on strategic values than on cultural, regional or ideological foundations 8 So, in the second half of the 1980s, more than 6 thousand Soviet citizens and female citizens worked, studied and lived in Syria. Tens of thousands of Syrians studied in the USSR, both in civilian and military educational institutions. Many of them married Soviet citizens and formed mixed families with them in Syria. Until 1984, the "Association of Graduate Students", founded in 1980 by President Assad's brother Rifaat, who himself defended his PhD thesis in the Soviet Union, successfully operated in Damascus. The Association was designed to promote the dissemination of knowledge in various fields of human activity and brought together in its ranks about 50 thousand Syrians and other Arabs who defended their dissertations mainly in the USSR and Eastern European countries, many of whom held high positions in local government structures. We should not forget that Syria is home to about 200 thousand people, who come from various republics, territories and regions of the former USSR, mainly the North Caucasus and Armenia, who for the most part are closely connected with their historical homeland by cultural, religious and kinship ties.

Against this background, the processes taking place in post-Soviet Russia were particularly painfully perceived in CAP by both ordinary people and the authorities in power. The loss of support from the superpower, the reduction of financial assistance to Arab oil-producing countries, and the accumulated internal economic problems called into question the implementation of the Syrian program to strengthen its own military power and made the previous concepts of national security ineffective in terms of achieving the goal of returning the Golan Heights.

After 1991, Russia switched to new commercial terms of settlements with foreign partners, including Syria, in matters of military-technical cooperation (MTC). Now the Russian side demanded to pay the cost of military supplies and services in freely convertible currency per year of delivery. As a result, there was a certain decline in Russian-Syrian relations in this area, which was also caused by the parties ' inconsistent approaches to resolving the Syrian debt on state loans of the former USSR. From 1995 to 1996, the volume of deliveries of weapons and military equipment and the provision of services under a number of previously signed contracts decreased in value terms by almost 2 times. Due to the transition to settlements in a freely convertible currency and the lack of a mechanism for applying mixed (SLE + national currency) settlement conditions, the trade turnover between the two countries also decreased. The volume of technical assistance provided to Syria from 1990 to 1994 decreased in value terms by more than 3.5 times.

Thus, in the early 1990s, Russian-Syrian relations began to "cool down", and bilateral cooperation in almost all areas

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it was actually "frozen". The current situation was somewhat natural, because after the collapse of the USSR, both Russia and Syria sought their place in the renewed system of international relations and the world order. Meanwhile, the importance of Russia for Syria, as well as Syria for Russia, retained its objective basis.

Despite the above-mentioned "new philosophy" in Russia's foreign policy, in practice the geographical and strategic parameters of Russian-Syrian relations could not be absolutely and unambiguously removed, since the new Russia, like its predecessor, needed strategic allies in the Middle East, especially since the other traditional strategic partner of the USSR in the region - Iraq it was isolated and "turned off" from the sphere of Russian influence as a result of the blockade and a strict regime of international sanctions. Yemen has been preoccupied with internal conflicts and border issues with its neighbors. The PLO was preparing to implement separate agreements with Israel with the active mediation of the West. Afghanistan was sinking deeper into the abyss of civil war, and Iran was "moving away" from the consequences of a long and bloody war with Iraq. Relations with Israel were only gaining momentum. The search for new strategic partners in the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf did not bring quick and desirable results. Very soon, Russia had to service a loan of 500 million rubles. Saudi Arabia's loan to the USSR in the early 1990s, and attempts by Russian state and commercial organizations to establish themselves in the vast markets for weapons and consumer goods in the Persian Gulf countries were effectively suppressed by Western companies.

The current geopolitical situation could not completely suit Syria. Having significantly softened their position on the Middle East settlement and held a series of bilateral negotiations and meetings with the Israelis with the mediation of the Americans, the Syrians were not able to solve their main task - the return of the Golan Heights. The increasingly visible contours of the new world order (one of the most important components of which was the strategic alliance of Israel, Jordan and Turkey under the auspices of the United States and its Western allies), created by the United States for the Middle East, presented Damascus with a difficult dilemma: to change the system of power in the country with all the ensuing consequences and find a less radical and destructive algorithm for more or less peaceful coexistence with the new reality. In the context of Russia's transition to new, market-based principles for providing military assistance to CAP and high prices for modern Russian weapons, the Syrian leadership was looking for alternative partners in the field of military-technical cooperation.

However, the lifting by Western European States of a strict embargo on military supplies in CAP in 1994 did not significantly affect the expansion of defense ties between these States and Damascus due to the continuing tension in Syrian-Israeli relations. Cooperation was mainly limited to the sale of small batches of dual-use equipment, communications and transport equipment, as well as the purchase of spare parts for already delivered weapons. The exception was France, whose president on the eve of his visit to Damascus in the fall of 1996 expressed readiness to positively consider possible applications of Syrians for the purchase of Mirage-2000 aircraft. Syria's military ties with Eastern European states have not developed significantly either. After acquiring some types of weapons and military equipment in one of these countries in the early 1990s, which had serious technical shortcomings, Syrians began to be wary of new proposals from Eastern European partners. Military contacts with the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and Kazakhstan-

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In the absence of proper state control over military supplies in these countries and the crisis state of the military-industrial complex, they were mainly carried out through representatives of private companies, research and production associations and manufacturing plants. Military cooperation with the DPRK and China faced certain difficulties. Beijing's refusal to supply offensive weapons to Syria, and the high cost of the proposed military equipment models with their relatively low quality hindered military cooperation with China.

At the same time, given the continuing uncertainty over peace with Israel and some tensions in Damascus ' relations with its other neighbors, the Syrian leadership was forced to pay unflagging attention to improving the combat capability of the national armed forces. At the same time, it saw them as the main pillar of the political regime in the country. From this point of view, Damascus has always treated Russia as its main partner in the field of military-technical cooperation, a source of receipt of modern types of weapons.

Despite the fact that, since 1992, Russian-Syrian trade, economic and technical cooperation has faced difficulties, mainly caused by unresolved issues related to the repayment of Soviet loans and the termination of state support for Russian exports to Syria, Russia has continued to be considered an important economic partner in the CAP. Russian organizations continued to participate in the design and construction of irrigation facilities and land development in the West Meskene massif and in the Aleppo region, assisted in oil production and in the establishment of a number of other enterprises. The cooperation facilities created and operated with Russian assistance have played an important role in the Syrian economy. In the mid-1990s, they provided 1/3 of the country's electricity generation, about 30% of oil production, and irrigation of more than 50 thousand hectares of arid land in the West Mesquene massif and in the coastal zone.

After 1995, the Russian leadership took a number of active political and diplomatic actions in order to restore the country's former position in the Middle East region. First of all, Russia sought to strengthen its status as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process. In December 1996, it proposed organizing a meeting of the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) and Arab countries in order to revive the Madrid formula in general, and to resume multilateral negotiations in particular. This was especially important for Russia in terms of ensuring its participation and taking into account Russian interests in shaping new geopolitical realities in the region. In addition, multilateral negotiations are a unique mechanism, and it was during these negotiations that the discussion of regional security issues in the Middle East was initiated under the Russian co-chairmanship.

In 1996-1997, then Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov held a series of talks with the leaders of a number of Arab States, Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. In October 1997, Primakov mediated an exchange of messages between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the President of CAP X. By Assad. In response to a request from the Israelis, the Russian foreign minister even agreed to adjust the program of his visit and returned to Damascus to deliver a special message to the Israeli leadership X. To Assad. In May 1997, Russian diplomacy made efforts to create a favorable climate in the Arab-Israeli negotiations, trying to persuade Syria and Iran to exert appropriate pressure on radical groups.

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movements and groups in the region that sought to torpedo the Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation. As a result, Damascus and Tehran agreed in principle on the need to counter terrorism and fight it "in any situation and under all circumstances."

As part of these efforts, Russian diplomacy has focused on exploiting the potential benefits for Russia from its traditionally close ties with Syria.

In 1997, Russia resumed negotiations with Syria on the terms of payment of its debt to the Russian side (about $ 11 billion). In June 1997, the Russian Ambassador to CAP made it clear that his country was committed to resolving this issue through dialogue and that it should not become an obstacle to the development of bilateral cooperation in various fields. Indeed, the CAP requirements were unnecessarily harsh in comparison with the conditions granted to other countries (for example, India received a 40-year deferral on debt payments, 80% of Jordan's debt was written off), and ultimately turned against Russia itself. Damascus, apparently, has actually adapted to the cool relations with Moscow and did not feel an urgent need for an early settlement of the debt problem. Russia, in addition to the lost profits, suffered direct economic losses. Overdue debt grew (about $ 7 billion). as of mid-1997), which further reduced the possibility of reaching mutually acceptable terms for debt repayment in the future 9 .

At the end of 1997, Russia initiated cooperation between the Russian Minatom and the Syrian company in the field of nuclear energy. The Syrian side expressed interest in holding talks to determine possible areas of cooperation and sign a corresponding memorandum. In a published statement, the Russian government spoke about the need to develop relations in this area. 10

Russian-Syrian military-technical cooperation has also intensified. In the spring of 1997, a delegation of Rosvooruzhenie Group of Companies held relevant negotiations with the Syrian side in Damascus on contracts concluded in 1992-1993. In the summer of the same year, a representative Syrian military delegation visited Russia to sign contracts for the manufacture and supply of certain types of modern weapons to CAP. At the end of 1997, the Russian ambassador in Damascus announced the resumption of Russian arms supplies to Syria, and later information was leaked to some Western and Arab media outlets about negotiations held in August 1997 on the supply of $ 3 billion worth of Russian weapons to CAP. with the financial support of Iran. The Syrian side showed particular interest in purchasing modern weapons and military equipment, in particular MIG-31, MIG-29, Su-27, Su-22 aircraft, Ka-50 helicopters, T-90 tanks, S-300 air defense systems, communications and electronic warfare equipment 11

After August 1998, the military and economic components of Russian foreign policy significantly weakened, but its overall vector for preserving and strengthening Russia's position in the Middle East remained the same. Obviously, this circumstance was taken into account by the President of Syria X. Assad, who, after a 12-year hiatus, made an official visit to Russia at the head of a representative Syrian delegation in the summer of 1999. It seems that H. Assad did not forget about the positive aspects of the special relations between Damascus and Moscow and believed in the potential of a renewed Russia. The Syrian president was well aware that strong ties with Moscow could only help his successor in the transition period. Negotiations X. Al-Assad's meeting with the Russian leadership and previous visits to Moscow by CAP foreign Ministers. Sharaa and a high-ranking Syrian military delegation-

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These developments have given a new impetus to Russian-Syrian relations, including in the field of military-technical cooperation.

Indeed, Russia, like the former Soviet Union, is the main exporter of weapons and military equipment to Syria, and the results of recent contacts in the field of trade and economic relations inspire hope that the economic component of Russian - Syrian relations can significantly strengthen. Unlike other countries, Russia, like the United States, has the status of a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process launched in Madrid, which Damascus advocates for compliance with the principles. Over the past few years, Moscow's influence on the politics of Israel, where 20% of the population speaks Russian and comes from the former USSR, has noticeably increased.

Thus, there are still certain prospects for expanding bilateral ties with CAP. As an important "catalyst" for Russian-Syrian relations, Damascus considers the purchase of modern weapons from Russia. The military-technical cooperation between Russia and Syria is one of the few examples where the resumption of full-scale cooperation does not require preliminary "reviews", does not require mandatory testing for the strength of partnership relations and long-term interests. In the future, if concrete positive results are achieved in negotiations with Israel, the political leadership of CAP will inevitably face the need for large-scale modernization and qualitative renewal of the national armed forces, reducing the number of personnel (according to some sources, by 80-100 thousand people) with corresponding changes in their organizational structure. Taking into account the fact that today the CAP armed forces are more than 80% equipped with Russian-made military equipment, only Russia is able to carry out the upcoming major work on defecting the existing fleet of weapons and military equipment, assessing the possibilities of extending their resources, repairing and modifying them, as well as technological continuity and technical compatibility. Obviously, in the coming years, Syria will face two main tasks in the military-technical field: finding sources for the supply of modern weapons and reforming its army. Apparently, the basic principle of the modern CAP military doctrine can be summarized as " effective deterrence and strong defense." As a result, Damascus will inevitably decide to reduce its armed forces, relying on the modernization of its technical base.

For Russia, expanding military-technical cooperation with Syria is all the more important, since in recent years Russia has significantly weakened its position in the Middle East arms market. In addition to direct economic benefits (in the first half of the 1990s, the Syrians submitted bids for the purchase of military equipment worth up to $ 5 billion to the Russian side), increased military cooperation with Syria could help revive the so-called offset (compensation) programs to provide technical assistance in the creation of a national industry and training of military personnel. Russian military personnel, which in previous years, to a greater or lesser extent, were traditionally an integral, often "free" part of Soviet military exports, which in turn would help to activate bilateral economic ties. As a rule, technical assistance implies that the parties involved in it are united by a large number of complex mutual obligations and, unlike a time - limited buyer-seller relationship, they are forced to build their relationships over a multi-year period, involving numerous specialists, as well as a large number of state-owned commercial organizations.

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At the same time, Russian-Syrian cooperation does not change the balance of power in the Middle East and does not pose a threat to Syria's neighbors, since it is focused on meeting the defense needs of Damascus, which are aimed at exerting a deterrent effect on a potential aggressor. Moreover, the military-technical cooperation of Russia and Syria can remove the well-known concern of Damascus about its possible military vulnerability in the face of the alleged enemy and thereby contribute to ensuring stability in the region, implementing the international non-proliferation regime of nuclear weapons, and fighting international terrorism. Restoring full bilateral cooperation with CAP could also bring Russia geopolitical dividends, as it would help stabilize its presence in the Middle East. 12 .

Thus, given the special role of the officer corps in Syria, whose decisive influence on the development of internal political processes in CAP is likely to continue under the new Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the development of bilateral military-technical cooperation could lay solid stabilizing foundations in our bilateral relations for the long term. This would make it possible to consolidate the course proclaimed by Russia to preserve the status of a great maritime power, especially since integration processes in the Mediterranean are developing in various forms so far without Russia's visible participation. The seemingly abstract issues of freedom of passage through the Straits and guaranteed access of Russian vessels to the World Ocean via the Mediterranean can easily turn into a practical plane if the political situation or the "rules of the game" in the region change, especially since peacekeeping operations involving NATO forces have been "tested", including on the territory of the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East region with its problems is clearly "asking" to be included in the list of" new concerns " of the leaders of the bloc.

The prospect of expanding NATO to include the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which has now become a reality, the attempts to involve the Arab countries of the Mediterranean in cooperation with NATO structures on certain security issues, in particular on the joint fight against international terrorism, and the plans to extend the Alliance's area of responsibility in the south-eastern direction directly affect important geostrategic interests of Russia. The approach of the NATO infrastructure to Russia's borders, including from the south, with unresolved acute international problems (the Balkans, Cyprus, the Arab-Israeli conflicts), as well as in the conditions of a very likely expansion of the zone of instability in the southern and south-eastern Mediterranean under the influence of the "Islamic factor", is fraught with the exclusion of Russia from active participation as a world power in creating a balanced security system in the Mediterranean. In this situation, the fact that the Syrian port of Tartus is the only point in the Mediterranean Sea that is available for free entry of the Russian Navy becomes particularly important for Russia.

A serious obstacle to the alignment of all areas of Russian - Syrian cooperation is the unresolved problem of Russia's CAP debt. Delaying the resolution of this issue not only plays into the hands of opponents of the development of Russian-Syrian relations, but may ultimately, as shown above, create a situation where the repayment of Russian debts will become problematic.

Obviously, the Syrian delegation's visit to Moscow in the summer of 2001 was devoted to finding solutions to these problems. Earlier, in September 2000 and January 2001, during the negotiations of the Russian delegation in Damascus and, accordingly, the Syrian delegation in Moscow, a number of agreements were signed in the field of trade and economic exchange, the most important of which is the agreement on the avoidance of double taxation,

page 110

opening up broad opportunities for the development of bilateral trade and economic ties both through the state and private entrepreneurship 13 . The agreements reached need to be consolidated and developed with concrete actions. To do this, both sides have everything they need.

In recent years, Bashar al-Assad has thoroughly strengthened the economic block of government structures with new personnel and personally contributed to the introduction of important legislative changes in the currency and financial, banking, credit and investment, and tax codes of the CAP. For the first time since 1963, private commercial banks have opened in Syria. The law on Protection of Foreign Investments was adopted 14 . This creates favorable conditions for the activities of Russian foreign economic organizations in the Syrian market (participation in announced international auctions, fulfillment of a number of tender obligations, creation of mixed enterprises, etc.), and also opens up new horizons for cooperation in the financial and banking, investment and credit spheres, tourism, etc.

Over the years of cooperation, with the technical assistance of Soviet organizations, many facilities were built in Syria, and in the basic sectors of the Syrian economy, primarily in energy, oil production, irrigation and transport construction, ferrous metallurgy, etc. Now, for various reasons, many of these objects are virtually inactive. Construction of some has been suspended, while others are in need of re-equipment and modernization of equipment. Despite the fact that the public sector in Syria is constantly losing its commanding positions, its role in the transition period for the country as a social shock absorber remains very significant. Therefore, it would be justified today to continue cooperation in the construction and operation of new facilities in such traditional areas of Russian-Syrian relations as energy, oil and gas industry, exploration and production drilling, construction of oil pipelines, gas pipelines, oil storage facilities, metallurgy, irrigation construction, land development in the Coastal area, etc. At a time when most Western markets, especially American ones, may soon be closed to the export of domestic metallurgical products, Russian industrialists and entrepreneurs should pay closer attention to the countries of the Near and Middle East, first of all, to the countries where "heavy" industries were created with Soviet assistance.

However, it would be wrong to limit the scope of our cooperation to traditional industries only. Today, modern production facilities are rapidly developing in Syria, primarily in the fields of communications, telecommunications, and computer science. The new Syrian leader personally oversees the development of these industries, not only because he used to head the Syrian Association for Informatics and Computerization, a number of whose senior members now hold high government posts, but also because without the development of these industries, it is hardly possible to seriously talk about Syria's security in the XXI century. Taking into account the original "know-how" available in Russia in this area, which is not inferior to Western counterparts, and in some respects even surpass them, the relevant Russian organizations could take a more active part in promoting their products to the Syrian market.

Another area of joint efforts is cooperation in the humanitarian field. These include the training of Syrian specialists (in larger volumes than today) in Russian universities, which, according to the forecasts of domestic demographers, may have a shortage of students in the coming years; the creation of joint research centers and associations; the holding of scientific symposiums and conferences; the publication of advertising and book products on topical issues.

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problems of bilateral relations and the situation in the region. Some of these projects may be very profitable. Although they are low-cost from a financial point of view, they can nevertheless play an important role in providing information and advertising support to both Russian and Syrian businesses, without which it is impossible to imagine establishing productive business ties.

Cooperation between the two countries is a two-way road. The prospects of their relationship will largely depend on how seriously and responsibly both sides approach the use of the opportunities that open up. Apparently, the time has come to adapt the 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation to the new international realities and challenges of bilateral cooperation in order to create a legal basis for developing Russian-Syrian relations and bringing them to a qualitatively new level in a rapidly changing world.


1 Ахмедов В.М. Режим и религиозная оппозиция в CAP // Ближний Восток и современность. Вып. 8. М., 1999 г. С. 12-14.

2 Там же.

3 . The Soviet Union and Syria: The Asad Years. L., 1988. P. 5-8.

4 Ibid. P. 12-13.

5 . Syria and the Middle East Peace Process. N.Y., 1991. P. 135-136.

6 . Op. cit. P. 17-18, 49-50, 290-293.

7 Ibid. P. 9.

8 Yorke V. Domestic Politics and Regional Security: Jordan, Syria and Israel. The End of an Era? Aldershot: Gower, 1988. P. 142-143; Chomsky N. The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and Palestinians. Boston. P. 13-17.

9 Modern Syria. From Ottoman Rule to Pivotal Role in the Middle East. Brighton, 1999. P. 75, 93-95.

10 JCSS Quaterly. Strategic Assessment. V. 1, N 1, march 1998. P. 5.

11 Ibid.; Al-Wasat. 11.08.1997. pp. 10-13 (in Arabic).

12 Akhmedov V. M. Some aspects of Russia's policy in the Middle East / / The Middle East and Modernity. Issue 10, Moscow, 1999, pp. 25-30.

13 Nezavisimaya gazeta. Diplomatic courier. 15.02.2001. P. 15.

14 Radio "Monte Carlo". Paris. 28.08.2000 (06-15 GMT), 02.10.2001 (05-10 GMT) (in Arabic).


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