From the September/October 2009 issue of The National Interest.
Yevgeny Primakov, Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present, trans. Paul Gould (New York: Basic Books, 2009), 400 pp., $29.95.
Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present YEVGENY MAKSIMOVICH Primakov's Russia and the Arabs (which should really be called The Soviet Union and the Arabs, since most of it deals with that period, one in which Moscow still had enormous influence in the Middle East) is the latest contribution to the annals of the international competition for influence and power. The book-by a Moscow insider who held key positions in the USSR's, and later Russia's, foreign-policy establishment-is a firsthand account informed by decades of experience of Middle East crises, from the Arab-Israeli wars to Iraq and beyond. It also shows the profound impact of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry on the region and especially on attitudes toward Washington and Moscow in the Muslim world.
During the Russian-Georgian conflict of August 2008 I was in Pakistan, researching for a book; and viewing the war from that perspective was a profoundly disquieting experience. This was not just because of the apparent lunacy of the United States engaging in a really dangerous dispute with Russia over South Ossetia (South Ossetia, for Heaven's sake?) at a time when such monstrous threats loomed in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In some ways equally disturbing was the reaction of the Pakistani media and educated public, including military officers, to whom I lectured at the National Defense University in Islamabad a few weeks later.