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Explaining Russian policy in Syria and in the wider Middle East


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This lecture explains Russia’s unyielding commitment to the Syrian regime in recent years including its high profile military intervention. It also explores reasons for Russia’s expanding diplomatic and strategic visibility in the wider Middle East. It argues that identity or former solidarity between the Soviet Union/Russia and Syria has exerted little real influence, despite some strategic nostalgia. Russian material interests in Syria itself are also overstated, although Russia is entrenching itself in the regional politics of the Middle East. In contrast the Russian domestic political context is important. First there is the risk of regional ‘blowback’ from Syria, via Islamic networks and insurgency in the North Caucasus. Secondly, Russia equates calls for the replacement of Assad as another case of Western inspired regime change, with future implications for Russia or other authoritarian CIS states. Russia is currently seeking a settlement in Syria to preserve its new strategic imprint in the country and it to prioritise a broader diplomatic offensive from Iran to Libya. However, Russia has positioned itself on one side of a Sunni-Shi’a sectarian division, which poses serious risks for future domestic stability and international credibility.

Roy Allison is Professor of Russian and Eurasian International Relations at the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies, University of Oxford. He is also Director of the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies at St. Antony’s College Oxford. He first studied Russian at Oxford, where he taught Russian history and politics. In 1985 he had an attachment to Moscow State University. He was Senior Lecturer in Russian Security Policy at CREES, University of Birmingham (1987-1999); Head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House (1993-2005); and Reader in International Relations, London School of Economics (2005-2011). He has written ten books (sole author, co-authored or edited) including Russia, the West and Military Intervention (OUP, 2013); Putin’s Russia and the Enlarged Europe (co-author) (Blackwell 2006); Internal Factors in Russian Foreign Policy (co-author) (OUP 1996); The Soviet Union and the Strategy of Non-Alignment in the Third World (OUP, 1998); and Finland’s Relations with the Soviet Union (Macmillan, 1995). He has broad interests in the international relations and foreign and security policies of Russia and neighbouring CIS states.

Tea, Coffee & Biscuits at 6.30 pm. Talk starts at 7.00pm.

* - in cooperation with The Great Britain - Russia Society

Please note that this event will be in English, without translation into Russian.