Russia’s Turn to Solving the Political Problem in Lebanon

International Relations Reasoned Comments

By Ghassan Saoud

Lebanese dates in Moscow tell the world that the latter is a great power that communicates with all parties in Lebanon, but insiders confirm that Russia’s interests go beyond this image.

After Hezbollah first, and Saad Hariri, head of the Future Movement, second, the role of the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, came third in setting a date for him to visit Moscow before the great Orthodox Easter holiday.

And if Russian diplomacy does not believe in innocence, the set date of visitors reflects the Russian approach to the Lebanese file.

The Russians will start with the local and regional power, Hezbollah, that interests them with more than just their point of view, but rather coordinated periodic cooperation. Unlike the American, French, and Egyptian approach, the Russians know that imposing a fait accompli on Hezbollah is impossible, and likewise “sharing” it or trying to circumvent or deceive it.

After the party, Saad Hariri and Gebran Bassil will come together as the second and third political forces in the country, who cannot be absent, marginalized, or weakened in any serious approach to the Lebanese crisis, with Russia’s keenness not to talk about any hasty, reckless and light initiative, such as those who take sides against others, then talk about initiatives and mediations.

And if France lost its initiatives due to loose phrases and ambiguous positions that let each team translate them differently, the Russian Foreign Ministry is keen to quickly cut any intentions of moving it unwillingly to places it does not desire, through a clear statement that ties Hariri to his government and the approval of political parties and the main sectarians, in light of the Russian urge to cooperate.

Through the scheduled Lebanese appointments in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry indirectly tells the world that it is one of the few great powers that can communicate with all the main parties in Lebanon, but insiders confirm that Moscow’s interests go beyond this image and are directed in five directions:

1. A security concern, based on the Russian firm’s belief that Lebanon is sided with Syria in which it is trying to consolidate long-term stability, and believes in this context that any major security vibration in it, as a result of the living-political crisis, could have serious repercussions in Syria.

2. Hezbollah, as Russia assumes that four main files directly concern it, and the party plays a role in it, namely Lebanon of course, “Israel”, Syria and Turkey, and the latter have a central position with Russia, despite the permanent tactical tensions, as Moscow assumes that the Syrian-Turkish understanding is a priority and that the party can play a big role in this regard.

3. With investment interests, several Russian companies have visited Lebanon, and will be visited by several Russian companies, under the direct direction of the Russian leadership, to invest financially in the transport and services sectors, as Russia believes that Lebanon should be the main platform for the reconstruction of Syria, knowing that the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun had asked the Russians to create a bank in the country to be able to pump 5 or 6 billion dollars.

They reviewed the governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, regarding the licensing, but the latter cited the difficulty of cooperating with them in light of the heavy sword of US sanctions, and they informed the president that the governor of the Banque du Liban refused, not Russia.

4. Concerning Oil interests, one of the largest Russian oil companies in the world signed an agreement with the Lebanese Ministry of Energy, which provoked the Americans to equip, expand and rent gas tanks in northern Lebanon.

The successive closures due to Corona and the disbursement of the Ministry of Energy sums of money allocated for the rehabilitation of reservoirs and building new ones, caused the project to be delayed, but the Russian side took a serious step to follow up and pursuit the file.

5. The Port of Beirut carries a very serious Russian proposal in its regard, with direct follow-up from the office of Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, bearing in mind that Russia has a different approach than the Americans and French, and even the Chinese. That said, it stops at the human-sectarian dimension of the parties in the region, not only the economic-political-military, which allows Russia to understand and respect the importance of which other parties do not realize.