08.08.2007
The Islam Factor in Russia’s Foreign Policy
№3 2007 July/September
Alexei Malashenko

Research Director of the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, Berlin, Germany; a member of the Research Council of the Carnegie Moscow Center and the chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Religion, Society, and Security Program. He holds a Doctorate in History.

Following the breakup
of the Soviet Union, Moscow refrained from making independent moves
in the Middle East, thereby giving the initiative to its American
and European partners. However, before this moment, in 1977,
Moscow’s role in the region had already decreased when Egypt and
Israel entered into mutual negotiations under Washington’s
patronage.

Nevertheless, despite
the degradation of Russia’s relations with the Moslem world and the
relative indifference toward Islam, the Islamic factor remains a
part of Moscow’s foreign policy. With the end of the bipolar global
system, Islam has fully integrated into international politics,
while forces operating under religious slogans have become
international political actors.

HONEYMOON IN THE
POST-SOVIET SPACE

Former Soviet republics
in Central Asia and Azerbaijan, which sought to distance themselves
from Russia, emphasized their Moslem identity. The ruling elites of
these post-Soviet countries did not seek incorporation into the
Moslem community (where they would have ranked as foreign
elements); but relations with outside coreligionists offered them
more room for maneuver. Many local politicians, for example, hoped
to exchange their sudden passion for Islam for economic aid.

In the first half of
the 1990s, Russia, which tried hard to retain its influence over
the post-Soviet space, which was becoming no-man’s-land,
experienced the expansionism of Moslem states. Foreign Moslems
hoped to make a breakthrough into the region and its markets.
Initially, the Turks were more active than others: they emphasized
pan-Turkism, as well as cultural and linguistic affinity with
Turkic peoples in the ex-Soviet Union. Ankara demonstrated
confidence that in the future it would become a member of the
European community; this factor was intended to increase its
authority in the eyes of former Soviet Turkic nations. Nor did the
Turks neglect religion. They emphasized that Turks and peoples in
Central Asia belong to the most tolerant and open branch of Sunni
Islam, the Hanafi School, which encourages positive changes and
reforms.

Arabs and
Arab-controlled international organizations were more consistent in
pushing the Islam issue with post-Soviet states. They donated money
for building mosques and institutes, funded various kinds of
religious publications, and offered thousands of young people in
Central Asia an opportunity to study in Arab countries.

Teheran limited its
activities largely to Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. Iran’s relative
inactivity was due to its low financial capabilities, cultural
differences, and the absence of strong clerical support for Iranian
Shias in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Moreover, a majority of
local Moslems fear religious radicalism, which for many is
associated with the Islamic revolution in Iran.

The “honeymoon” in
relations between former Soviet republics and the Moslem world
proved to be short-lived. Despite some progress (above all, in
trade), by the mid-1990s hopes for large-scale aid from the
coreligionists began to fade as the latter pursued their own goals
and viewed their “new friends” as junior partners. It is indicative
that in a majority of their statements about foreign-policy
priorities, the presidents of Central Asian countries and
Azerbaijan ranked the Moslem world third, only after the U.S. and
Russia.

Nevertheless, along
Russia’s southern border there emerged a seething Moslem belt with
a non-Soviet identity and with sporadic manifestations of religious
radicalism.

“THE RISE OF THE
CRESCENT”

In 1994, Russia’s
Foreign Intelligence Service (then headed by Yevgeny Primakov)
warned the government about the possible rise of an “Islamic
threat” to Russia. The authors of the forecast said there was a
danger of Islamism penetrating into the whole of Central Asia from
civil war-torn Tajikistan and Afghanistan where the Taliban
movement had gained strength. In the same year, the war in Chechnya
began, which destabilized the entire North Caucasus. Two years
later, in 1996, the Taliban came to power in Kabul. Thus,
Afghanistan had become a center of international Islamism where
extremists from Central Asia and the Caucasus were trained. There
appeared a distinct “crescent of instability,” which stretched from
the Caucasus to China’s Xinjiang. Nervousness swept the entire
Moslem world, and Moslems in the ex-Soviet Union were not immune to
this feeling.

Of course, the “rise of
the crescent” had occurred at an earlier date: it was brought about
by the Islamic revolution in Iran, while the Afghan war
internationalized jihad, later to be symbolized by al-Qaeda. The
conflict in Afghanistan produced an illusion among some people that
one could manipulate Islamic radicalism with impunity, while others
came to the conclusion that it was futile to combat it. Thus, there
came about the “Time of the South” for Russia, the name of a
monograph written jointly by Dmitry Trenin and myself in 2002.

September 11 did not
reveal anything essentially new in relations between the Moslem
world and the West, including Russia. That tragedy graphically
showed the strained nature of relations and the presence of
unresolved problems between the parties. Books written by special
service officers and published after the attacks against the United
States convincingly show that politicians, not special services,
committed the main mistakes that led to the catastrophe. Despite
warnings from scientists and experts, many politicians viewed
Islamism only as a mutation and a particular manifestation of
extremism and terrorism. The opinion that Islamism was a product of
the Middle East conflict and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is
still widespread. In 2006, the leader of the British Conservative
Party, David Cameron, described Afghanistan as “the cradle for the
terrorist attacks of September 11.”

There is also a
stereotyped view that Islamic extremist groups were created by
foreign special services, and that charismatic religious radicals,
knowingly or unknowingly, became their agents. There is no denying
that Pakistan’s intelligence was involved in the creation of the
Taliban movement, that Osama bin Laden had contacts with American
special services, and that the KGB rendered support to Palestinian
extremists. However, all those “projects” could be successful only
provided there were favorable conditions and people who could be
manipulated accordingly. The conditions developed regardless of the
special services’ will, and the mobilization for jihad had much
deeper roots. Organizations like the Taliban, al-Qaeda or Hizb
ut-Tahrir would have eventually emerged (possibly under other
names) even without intellectual support from highbrow analysts and
efforts by KGB and CIA agents.

It was vital for Russia
to define its attitude to the Islamic factor in its most aggressive
form, the Islamic threat, and include it in its foreign policy.

RUSSIA AS MEDIATOR

Presently, Moscow
increasingly positions itself as a mediator between Islamic
radicals on the one hand, and America and Europe on the other. This
is readily visible by the Iranian crisis.

In the protracted game
over Iran’s nuclear program, Russia was confident it would be able
to persuade Teheran to make Moscow-proposed concessions: the
enrichment of uranium on Russian territory, the establishment of
rigid control over dual-purpose materials, and the abandonment of
attempts to produce the full nuclear cycle. Moscow believed it had
a key role to play in that dispute, and as Iran’s “patron,” would
protect its own economic interests.

Symbolically, Moscow
uses the services of the Russian Orthodox Church in its relations
with Teheran. Its church leaders display a pronounced respect for
the fundamentalist ayatollahs who have taken a radical version of
Shia Islam and made it the country’s official ideology.

Moreover, Moscow views
the Church as a reserve diplomatic channel. In February 2006, at a
meeting in the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic
Energy Agency, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed the
hope that “the Russian Orthodox Church will play a role in the
settlement of the present contradictions and the easing of the
conflict of civilizations.”

In the same year, the
victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Palestinian
elections gave Russia an opportunity to serve as a mediator in the
Middle East conflict. The Hamas victory was a momentous event: it
changed the correlation of forces in Palestinian society, made
Israeli-Palestinian contacts unpredictable, and undermined the Road
Map settlement plan initiated by the U.S. and worked out by the
Middle East Quartet.

Moscow attempted to
take the initiative and return to the Middle East as an independent
actor with its own unorthodox ideas. Russia’s position seemed both
promising and adventuristic, especially since Hamas had a
reputation of being an incompliant extremist force. Moscow hoped
that its risky move would help it win recognition inside the Moslem
world, and the first impression was that these hopes were
justified. However, the Moslem regimes were in no hurry to express
their appreciation with Moscow, especially since Egypt, Jordan,
Algeria and some other countries have a cautious or even negative
attitude toward Hamas. Commenting on the conflict of views over the
new Palestinian authorities, American journalist Steven Lee Myers
wrote that “most of all, it is a quest for prestige.”

In March 2006, the
Kremlin, in a gesture that was meant to assist Hamas at winning
some respectability in the international (non-Moslem) community,
invited a Hamas delegation to Moscow. In the autumn of the same
year, Russia made one more “fine gesture:” neither Hamas, nor
Hezbollah, were included in the Federal Security Service’s listing
of 17 terrorist organizations. This seemed to be a challenge to the
United States, whose list included both organizations.

In their dialogue with
Islamists, however, Russian diplomats seemed to display confusion
and inconsistency. The “work” with the Hamas delegation resembled
the ‘dump and chase’ strategy in ice-hockey: a team shoots the puck
into the opponent’s zone where they then attempt to make a play out
of it. The puck was dumped in regard to Hamas, but the subsequent
moves looked rather ill conceived. Neither the presidential
administration, nor the Foreign Ministry, had taken care to work
out a clear line of conduct.

The Hamas delegation,
which arrived in Moscow in the spring of last year, was headed by
Hamas leader Khaled Mashal. The visit’s itinerary, however, was
obviously downgraded, since it did not provide for meetings with
Russia’s top leaders. The visitors had unofficial contacts with
parliament deputies and diplomats. Even Hamas’ semi-confidential
conversation with the chairman of the International Affairs
Committee of the Federation Council (the upper house), Mikhail
Margelov (an Arabist by education), could not be viewed as
official. The meetings were not “obligatory” for the hosts and
their visitors. The strongest – and oddest – impression from the
visit was made by a joint prayer service at the Moscow Cathedral
Mosque. Russia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ravil Gainutdin, who had
repeatedly condemned religious radicalism, conducted the
prayer.

Contacts between Moscow
and Hamas continue to this day. At the beginning of this year, the
foreign minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud
al-Zahar, made a stopover in Moscow en route to a trip abroad. A
bit later, Khaled Mashal paid another visit to the Russian capital.
These visits to Moscow by Hamas officials produce a sense of
bewilderment. After all, the Islamists have not softened their
position over the question of Israel’s “right to exist.” Russia has
failed to make them more compliant and thus to present itself as an
independent “soloist” in the Middle East “concert.” Moscow can now
see for itself that the Islamists continue playing a game of their
own. Their rapprochement with Russia is nothing more than an
additional trump card in their relations with the West and a
precedent (although a fragile one) for dialogue with Europe and,
possibly, with America. The non-binding visits to Moscow allow the
Hamas leadership to believe that diplomatically the organization
has gone beyond the boundaries of the Moslem world. (By the way,
mutual visits by Iranian and Russian diplomats offer a similar
scenario: each time the result proves unsatisfactory for
Russia.)

In the summer of 2006,
Russia seemed to have another chance to enter into dialog with
Islamists – this time with Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based organization
that scored a kind of moral victory in a brief war with Israel.
Following the war, Hezbollah’s popularity hit an unprecedented
level in Lebanon; it also became an authoritative force in the eyes
of Europe. However, Hezbollah was never invited to Moscow, although
if the Kremlin had been more consistent in its decisions, it could
have coordinated such a visit.

The fact that Hezbollah
officials never visited Moscow has two potential explanations.

President Putin did not
want to aggravate relations with the United States. Europe, despite
its sympathies for Lebanon, would not have understood a Hezbollah
visit to Moscow; Europe was not ready to support dialog with
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah. Thus, any direct contacts
with the radicals could have finally destroyed the already
aggravated relations with Israel.

Furthermore, and
perhaps most importantly, the Kremlin realized that talks with
Hezbollah officials would unlikely produce results. Their success
required support from Iran, but Teheran did not need Moscow’s
mediation in the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. The Iranian leadership
could correct Hezbollah’s positions independently – which it did
when it advised Hezbollah to release Israeli hostages (“prisoners
of war” by Hezbollah’s definition). Finally, the Hezbollah
leadership did not view Russia as an effective mediator and
preferred to contact Moscow via its Syrian patrons. The latter were
not eager to encourage Hezbollah’s contacts with Russia,
either.

Moscow’s attempts to
establish dialog with Islamists have won approval in the Russian
Moslem community. Meanwhile, its leaders are in an awkward position
as they, following in the footsteps of the Russian government, must
separate Islamists into the “good” ones operating abroad from the
“bad” ones operating in Russia.

Radical Moslem
ideologists try to present Russia’s mediation as a basis for
strategic consensus with Islamists and dictatorial regimes in
general. In the summer of 2006, at the height of the war between
Hezbollah and Israel, the head of Russia’s Islamic Committee,
Heidar Jemal, said: “Syria and Iran need a revived Russia.” This
statement was consistent with Moscow’s official position. But do
they really need a revived Russia? After all, Syria, Iran and Hamas
all seek goodwill from America and Europe. So they can well do
without Russia’s mediation.

Radical Islamists, who
have won time thanks to Russia, will most likely decline its
services at a later date.

First, they view
Russia’s policy as a kind of “Fronde” and a wish to demonstrate to
the West its ability to act independently.

Second, from their
point of view, Russia, which declared itself successor to the
Soviet Union, has a negative attitude to Islam. This, they argue,
can be witnessed from its policy in the North Caucasus and,
certainly, its participation in the antiterrorist coalition (even
though its membership has become almost formal). In September 2006,
the unveiling of a Russian monument in New York to the 9/11 victims
caused irritation in the Middle East and Iran (where a contest for
anti-Holocaust cartoons was being held at that time). Also,
Islamists have not forgotten that in 2002-2003 Russia, which was
opposed to military intervention in Iraq, did not take resolute
measures and finally reconciled itself to what happened there.

Official Russian
ideologists are silent about their future cooperation with Islamic
radicals. The overall situation in Russia, together with the
general vagueness of Russia’s foreign-policy strategy, prevents
them from devising a clear position on this issue. Many believe
that Moscow’s policy line is not far-sighted. For example, few are
willing to discuss the subject of Moscow’s continuation of
relations with Hamas, which Moscow has failed to tame, because no
one can say for sure what future this organization will have in
Palestine. Characteristically, none of the politicians “playing up”
to the Kremlin, but not fully sharing its positions, are expressing
pro-Hamas – as well as anti-Hamas – statements.

Later, however, when
Hamas strained intra-Palestinian relations, Russia found itself
facing a difficult dilemma: support the secular moderate movement
headed by PNA President Mahmoud Abbas, or display understanding
toward Islamists. The choice has never been made.

THE LONG ROAD TO
OIC

Moscow’s intermediary
contacts with Islamic radicals fit well into the general strategy,
which provides for special relations with the Moslem world. These
relations are based on the premise that Russia is a
multi-confessional (mainly Christian/Moslem) country, which
predetermines its right to simultaneously exist in two different
civilizations.

In 2004, Russia’s State
Duma deputies set up a parliamentary association that they named
“Russia and the Islamic World: Strategic Dialog.” Deputy Shamil
Sultanov has formulated the association’s goals in the following
way: “Providing legislative support for the development of Russia’s
relations with Moslem countries and international Islamic
organizations, first of all the Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC); putting forward initiatives for participation in
integration processes in the Islamic world; creating conditions for
constructive dialog between political and economic elites of Russia
and the Islamic world,” etc.

One event that
contributed to the establishment of these special relations was
Russia’s accession to the Organization of the Islamic Conference as
observer nation with a Moslem minority. (The OIC, set up in 1969,
groups 57 countries, including two from Europe, two from Latin
America, and six from the Commonwealth of Independent States.)
Russia’s contacts with the OIC date back to Soviet times when this
organization helped Soviet POWs return home from Afghanistan.
Later, in 1994 and 1997, OIC secretaries general visited
Russia.

The idea of Russia’s
accession to the OIC has been in the air for some time. In the
mid-1990s, Yevgeny Primakov, who is much respected amongst Moslems,
tried to convince foreign Moslem politicians that such a move would
bring benefit to both parties. In 1997, the head of the Union of
Russian Moslems, Nadirshakh Khachilayev, a popular Moslem
politician at the time, raised the accession issue. In a
conversation with this author, he stressed the need for Russia to
join the OIC by arguing that the move would give Russian Moslems
more rights and raise their status. The idea won approval in
Russia’s government agencies, including the Foreign Ministry.
However, they would not accept the figure of Khachilayev, who was
too independent in his actions. Khachilayev negotiated with the OIC
and participated in its activities where he spoke not as a
representative of Russia but on behalf of the Union of Russian
Moslems.

Rapprochement with the
OIC, however, failed to deliver Russia any dividends in the economy
and real politics. Rather, the relationship was merely symbolic and
served as an argument for the Kremlin – which had been overly
pro-Western – to diversify its foreign policy. (Occasionally, the
desire to build bridges with the Moslem world acquired an exotic
character. In 1998, for example, the then Executive Secretary of
the Commonwealth of Independent States, Boris Berezovsky, proposed
incorporating some Moslem countries, in particular Iran, into the
CIS.)

Some believed that the
only pragmatic reason for Russia joining the OIC was the
expectation that the Moslem world would then be less critical of
the Chechen war.

Moslem leaders sought
to avoid strained relations with Russia over the Chechen issue. In
1994, an OIC summit conference turned down a resolution that
expressed support for Chechnya. In the same year, the OIC declined
a request by the president of Ichkeria [the name given to Chechnya
by separatist rebels – Ed.], Dzhokhar Dudayev, for giving OIC
membership to the rebellious republic. Ten years later, in 2004,
the Qatar authorities handed over to Moscow Russian special service
officers who were charged with killing in that country Zelimkhan
Yandarbiyev, one of the Ichkerian leaders and an icon of Chechen
resistance.

Another proof of the
OIC’s loyalty to Russia was the presence of OIC officials, together
with a delegation of the Arab League, at the 2003 presidential
elections in Chechnya – won by the Kremlin’s protйgй Akhmat
Kadyrov. So the leaders of warring Chechnya seemed to be justified
in their complaints about flawed Islamic solidarity: despite the
200 to 300 foreign mujahideen that participated in the war on the
rebels’ side, the war never became international.

Therefore, the ‘Chechen
issue’ was not the main reason for Russia’s seeking OIC membership.
The most important thing for Russia was to find a place for itself
in the world and compensate for worsened relations with the West by
a more active policy in other regions. After Vladimir Putin came to
power, the Moslem vector of Russia’s policy increased.

The Foreign Ministry
was handed the responsibility of developing this vector, yet the
president himself repeatedly spoke about the desirability of a
Russian-Moslem rapprochement. This issue was raised at the highest
level in 1999 during a visit to Moscow by an OIC delegation headed
by Iran’s Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi. Later, in April 2003, in
a conversation with Tajikistan’s mufti Amonullah Nematzade,
President Putin forwarded the idea that Russia join the OIC as
observer nation, adding that this country “is to some extent part
of the Moslem world.” This suggestion was welcomed by Russia’s
Patriarch Alexiy II and, of course, the head of the Council of
Muftis of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin.

OIC delegations began
to make frequent visits to Moscow. In January 2003, at the
invitation of the Russian foreign minister, Moscow was visited by
the then OIC Secretary General, Abdelouahed Belkeziz of Morocco.
The Foreign Ministry established a special post of ambassador for
ties with the OIC. In the same year, a large Russian delegation,
headed by Putin, participated in an OIC summit in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. The delegation included many well-known Moslem
politicians of Russia, among them Minister of Property Relations
Farit Gazizulin, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration
Dzhakhan Polliyeva, the presidents of the Russian republics of
Bashkortostan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya, and Chairman of the
Coordination Center of Moslems of the North Caucasus Ismail
Berdiev. In his speech at the summit, the Russian president spoke
much about inter-civilizational dialog and the inadmissibility of
Islamophobia. He also made a special mention of Chechnya.

That visit was marked
by an incident that put the Russian president into an awkward
position. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, in his address
to the conference, began to speak about “Jewish domination,” which
seemed to take the Russian leader off guard. He made no response to
those words, thus causing doubts among some Russian politicians
whether Russian officials should attend meetings where such
statements are made. I think most of the blame for Putin’s silence
must be placed on his advisers who had not prepared the president
for such extreme statements, which are typical of Moslem meetings.
As for Moslem leaders at the summit, they took Putin’s pause as a
good sign.

In 2004, upon the
conclusion of the 31st Conference of OIC Foreign Ministers in
Istanbul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in
attendance at the conference, said: “Russia and the OIC can do a
lot to prevent a civilizational and religious division.” However,
no one knows how to translate this idea into practice.

The Moslem community
welcomes Russia’s efforts toward rapprochement and offers all kinds
of assistance to achieving this end. Occasionally, this support is
expressed too emotionally, causing the Russian authorities to
disavow statements by its overly zealous supporters. In March 2003,
for example, the head of the Central Religious Board of Russian
Moslems, mufti Talgat Tadzhutdin, traveled to Iraq where he
expressed his readiness to remain in that country as a human shield
until the end of the war. In April of the same year, speaking
before students, Tadzhutdin declared jihad against the coalition
members that took part in the Iraq campaign. And although his
deputy at the Central Religious Board of Russian Moslems,
Mukhammedgali Khuzin, said that Tadzhutdin meant only “spiritual
jihad,” the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Bashkortostan,
Florid Boikov, warned him about inadmissibility of violating the
law, ‘On Counteraction to Extremist Activities.’ At the same time,
in Dagestan, another Russian republic, firebrands issued a call for
local Moslems to mobilize a militia and send it to Iraq to help the
coreligionists there. (There were reports that the republic could
mobilize 6,000 armed volunteers.)

It is difficult to say
what Russian Moslems expected from Russia’s admission to the
Organization of the Islamic Conference. Perhaps it was believed
that Russia’s presence could improve their psychological state and
reduce the level of Islamophobia (remarkably, in 2003 the OIC set
up the OIC Observatory on Islamophobia at its General Secretariat
to monitor anti-Islamic activities in the world. The body has found
no such activities in Russia so far). There were speculations that
for the Moslem world Russia’s accession to the OIC meant hope for
its Islamization: “sooner or later, it will become a full-fledged
Moslem country.”

The Moslem world’s
“softness” in their relations with Russia is explainable: they are
looking for more allies to counter U.S. expansion. Moslems do not
overestimate Moscow’s importance, yet they would not decline
additional support.

Russia’s accession to
the OIC has not brought about any major changes in Russian-Moslem
relations. Moscow did not expect any exclusive preferences from its
OIC membership. Participation in this organization simply fixed
Russia’s “special place” and served as a reminder that, although a
Christian country, it does not fit into stereotypes of the West
that are widespread in the Moslem world.

ROMANCING THE EAST TO
SPITE THE WEST

Russia’s work on the
Moslem vector of its foreign policy is accompanied by suggestions
that the West (be it Washington or the Pope) impedes these efforts,
as it wants to provoke a clash between Russia and the world of
Islam and therefore “prevents the development of relations with
Islamic states.” “Neo-Eurasians” and representatives of the Moslem
clergy are increasingly responsible for such statements. They
forget, however, that it was not the West that initiated the Soviet
intervention in Afghanistan, or that plunged Russia into a “small
victorious war” in the North Caucasus.

Russian politicians
emphasize that, unlike the West, Russia treats the Islamic world
with more understanding, “forgiving” it its excessive uneasiness.
Each time there erupts an Islam-related scandal in Europe or the
U.S., Moscow makes appeals, almost like that of a mentor, for
moderation and caution.

At the same time,
Russian officials who oversee relations with the Moslem world and
keep a watch over the situation inside the Islamic community made
it clear to Moslem leaders that they [these officials – Ed.] were
disappointed by the wild behavior of the Moslem public and some
politicians during the cartoon scandal [this involved cartoons in a
Danish newspaper that depicted the prophet Muhammad, which led to
violent protests in the Muslim world – Ed.] and later over comments
made by Pope Benedict XVI. As a result, unlike their foreign
colleagues, the majority of Russian imams and muftis criticized
those who encroached on Islam in a rather reserved and diplomatic
manner.

On the whole, Russia’s
approach to the Moslem world remains ambivalent. Despite official
exclamations of love for Islam, the rapprochement with this world
is a “tactical move,” said Russian Colonel-General (Ret.) Leonid
Ivashov, a nationalist-minded statist.

Characteristically,
despite its rather pretentious name, the aforementioned
parliamentary association “Russia and the Islamic World: Strategic
Dialogue” has never displayed any special activity, instead
choosing to remain a sort of “declaration of intent.” The
occasional debates organized by this association had no real value
and were merely demagogical; the goals declared by the association
seemed purely scholastic.

Attempts by Putin’s
Russia for rapprochement with the Moslem world have not allayed
mutual distrust. Both Moscow and the Moslem capitals seem to view
their mutual sympathy as a show-off of unity, and as a way to
confuse the West and perhaps even make it resentful, as neither
party has been successful in romancing it.

After all, the strength
of the Russian-Moslem “friendship” depends on how strong Russia is
militarily and politically, and how advanced it is economically.
These two factors will determine its appeal as a partner in the
eyes of the Moslem people.