On March 18, when Russia’s President Putin wins his fourth term in office in so-called elections, he can look back on some remarkable achievements.
These include the following:
- A deal signed with Syria’s Bashar Al Assad regime gives Russia control and access to its only naval port (the Tartus naval base) in the Mediterranean, as well as to the Hmaimim airbase in Latakia, for a half-century.
- Nearly one billion dollars in infrastructure deals were signed with Syria by April 2016 and the Assad regime subsequently promised Russia priority in awarding contracts to rebuild the country’s war-ravaged infrastructure.
- Due to a rapid improvement in yields, Russia is cementing its position as the world’s top wheat exporter and has become the fifth-largest exporter of feed grains (mostly barley), developments that squeeze the US position in the world market. (It’s worth remembering that in the early 2000s, Russia was a net importer of grain.)
- Russia’s political savvy and military boldness in the Middle East is not the only reason it is increasingly considered a force in the world. Its wheat sales to Egypt are booming (Russia and Ukraine now hold 82 per cent of the Egyptian market for wheat.) Sales of Russian feed grains are strong into Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. This gives Russia a different kind of strength in the MENA region.