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UTENRIKS-Internasjonale forhold - utenriks- og sikkerhetspolitikk og norske interesser

Russian Repertoires of Power in the MENA region

Alternative title: Russlands maktrepertoarer i Midøsten og Nord-Afrika (MENA)

Awarded: NOK 6.0 mill.

Over the past decade Russia has returned as a more active actor in the Middle East and in Northern Africa. This return 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 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 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 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 we will be able to obtain a more nuanced and detailed picture of crucial aspects of Russian policymaking in the region, and more generally.

The re-emergence of Russia as an important power factor in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has triggered a new dynamic in the region and renewed interest in Russian power practices. The RUSMENA project will use 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. ‘Repertoire of power’ is understood as a set of available policy performance options and a relatively stable array of tactics that countries traditionally employ when competing for influence. By using this concept to examine continuity, variation, change and innovation in Russian approaches to uses of instruments of power, the project will open new avenues for research on Russian power politics not only in the MENA region, but also more generally. What makes Russian policy in the MENA region an interesting object for a closer scrutiny is its paradoxical nature. 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 despite lacking economic muscle to compete with other great powers, Russia has been able to fill a power niche, conducting a surprisingly active, cost-effective and challenging policy in the region. RUSMENA investigates this apparent paradox by examining the drivers of Russian policy, exploring how Russia has bundled and deployed various instruments from its repertoire of power in dealing with the countries of the MENA region, and how this has contributed to changing regional and global power configurations. We will use the MENA region as a prism through which to ‘filter’ Russian policy to obtain a more nuanced and detailed picture of crucial aspects of Russian policymaking in the region, and more generally.

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UTENRIKS-Internasjonale forhold - utenriks- og sikkerhetspolitikk og norske interesser