By Claude Salhani
Senior editor of the English service of Trend Agency
Reversing a country's foreign policy, especially that of a superpower is similar to trying to reverse the course of a supertanker; it's slow and you have to predict your stops and turns way ahead of time. Otherwise you run into disaster.
That is what is happening today to US foreign policy. It is similar to that of a supertanker running without a pilot. Of course the ship's captain is still manning the bridge, but it's the experienced pilot that navigates the ship in and out of shallow waters around the ports. When it comes to foreign policy today Washington has the captain but is missing the pilot.
The United States is no longer alone out there trying to make friends and influence people. If Washington felt safely ahead of the pack because of its influence in the Middle East, knowing that the Soviets were defeated and that the Europeans would never quite amount to a threat even if the French and the Brits were able to wrangle a juicy defence-related contract from the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates every so often. But now the Russians are coming back and this time they are looked at very differently than in the past.
The quasi exclusivity understanding that the United States had in Egypt, for example, has just been handed back to the Russians on a silver platter by the Obama administration, due to its inability to establish clear lines of thinking when it comes to dealing with the new realities in Egypt. As Washington's influence and alliance with the Egyptians began to lessen Moscow did not miss a beat of waste a moment.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Cairo earlier this week heading a high-level delegation and holding "historic talks" with the Egyptians.
The immediate outcome of this visit is first the renewal of ties between Russia and Egypt, and a potential $2bn arms deal.
This is the new Russia, a Russia seen under a very different light than the Russia under the Soviet Union. The Arabs, for the most part, and especially the oil-producing sheikdoms of the Gulf, looked down upon the Soviets as godless communists with a crumbling economy and ridiculed their second-rate weapons systems that could not stand up to the American made weapons that the US provided to Israel. If the magnificent SAM 7 ground to air missiles deployed in Syria before the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war were successful in the opening days of the war in shooting down a number of US-made Israeli Phantom jets, it did not take long for the Americans to conjure counter measures.
And despite his immense supply of weapons and SCUD missiles Saddam Hussein twice succumbed under the power of US armament; first when the US-led coalition forced him out of Kuwait and then again when the Americans invaded in 2003.
And for some reason Moscow seems to be able to get away with behaviors that Washington never could. Example: Moscow's continued and unabated support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad -- a regime that has been repulsed, rejected and severely criticized by most Arab countries - is something that was entirely overlooked by the Egyptians and the Arab League.
After an absence of some 22 years, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians are making a comeback. Today, Russian clout is at its highest since the demise of the USSR.
At stake is not only the political clout of having a shoe-in with the influential Arab countries, primarily Egypt and Syria, or rather now Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but at stake are lucrative arm deals worth several billion dollars.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia's arms exports accounted for 27 percent of the total for the Middle East and North Africa in the period 2008-2012. Now translate that into dollars and you will see where this is going and why the Russians wasted so little time in jumping into the void created by Washington's lack of geo-political savvy.
What many Arabs look at today is how secure being attached to the United States may be for the at times shaky regimes. Many saw weakness from the US in not standing by its longtime ally in Egypt Hosni Mubarak and wondered what would happen to them if and when they may find themselves in that position.
Russia, on the other hand, continued to stand by its ally in Syria despite all the criticism from every country on the planet, save China and North Korea. And while most Arab countries today would like to see a change of regime in Damascus, they respect Moscow's loyalty to a long time ally; a position which Washington would never adopt.
Moscow's advantage over the Americans when dealing with the Arab world includes the fact that the Russians are not about to raise a ruckus over an Arab regime's infringing a dissident's human rights, while the Americans have the habit of preaching democracy with the fervor of a southern Baptist preacher delivering his Sunday sermon. And that they don't like.