The Russian attitude to the Arab Spring—a mixture of skepticism, caution and mis-trust—was for a long time poorly understood outside the country. In the West, which initially saw in the Arab Spring the familiar battle between “democracy from below” and “dictatorship from above,” many accused Moscow of sympathizing with outdated au-thoritarian regimes, even facilitating their behavior, and of being incapable of keeping up with the times.
Later, the situation changed. As democratic revolutions were replaced by civil con-flicts (some more peaceful, others more bloody, all exacerbated by ethnic or religious differences) Russia’s conservative position started to find support, both within the Mid-dle East and beyond. The breakthrough Russo-American agreement on Syrian chemical weapons opened the door to the Geneva II talks, bringing factions within Syria to the same talks table, and also helping regulate the Iranian nuclear issue.
To understand the factors that shaped the Russian attitude to the Arab Spring, we need to review recent Russian history and how the situation has changed Russia’s bor-ders. In this article, we will attempt to circumscribe these factors, and offer insights into their true nature.