Vladimir Putin (left), then the president of Russia, met with Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, in April to discuss arms, energy and debt. AFP
Employing strategies redolent of a new Great Game, Russia has stepped up its diplomatic and trade activities in the Middle East and North Africa in a bid to enhance its geopolitical clout and gain access to, and at least partial control over, the region’s oil and gas reserves.
Among the former global superpower’s tactics: linking arms deals and debt-forgiveness to energy deals.
The strategy has been most apparent in former client states of the Soviet Union including Libya, Iraq and Syria, although by no means limited to such countries. Moreover, Moscow has not shied away from courting the authoritarian regimes of countries such as Iran, Syria and Libya that are or have been shunned by the US and other western governments.