The results of the 2017 Arab Youth Survey underscore how diplomatic arbitration can improve public perceptions of Russia in the Arab world. According to the survey, 21 percent of young Arabs view Russia as their country’s leading ally. This level of support for alignment with Russia represents a dramatic increase from the 9 percent figure held by Russia in 2016 and is notably ahead of the 17 percent figure held by the United States.
This survey’s data also demonstrated that Washington’s support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen tarnished the United States’ reputation in many Arab countries. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Russia’s attempts to differentiate itself from the United States’ unpopular Yemen strategy will foster favorable perceptions of Moscow amongst Arab policymakers and on the street.
Even though Western policymakers have focused primarily on other potential locations for Russian diplomatic arbitration, a closer examination of geopolitical factors in the Middle East suggests that Yemen is the optimal theater for a Russian diplomatic intervention. If Moscow expands its diplomatic presence in Yemen and makes progress towards ending a seemingly intractable military stalemate, Russia’s role as an indispensable power broker in the Middle East will be entrenched for years to come.
Samuel Ramani is a DPhil candidate in International Relations at St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He is also a journalist who contributes regularly to the Washington Post, Huffington Post and The Diplomat. He can be followed on Twitter at samramani2 and on Facebook at Samuel Ramani.
Image: Russian military jets are seen at Hmeymim air base in Syria, June 18, 2016. Picture taken June 18, 2016. REUTERS/Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry via Reuters