Using the energy sector as its engine, Moscow is driving itself into countries across the Middle East and North Africa and boosting its credentials as a political and military force among the regional elite. Today’s insight picks apart Russia’s increasing political and economic leverage in Iraq as well as what this means for actors already invested in the county.

Impact Points

  • Trends point to a growing Russian presence across the Middle East and North Africa. Engagement has been stepped up on military, political, and commercial fronts between the Kremlin and its Arab counterparts.
  • This is particularly notable in Iraq. Shifting influence in Iraq comes after decades of American and European dominance in the country, whereby Western actors have shaped the status quo.
  • As Moscow assumes a greater political role in both Baghdad and Erbil, existing entities should be aware of how this could upend their presence. Taking a long-term view, western actors may find the environment less hospitable to investment, in lieu of a greater Eurasian presence.

Simply put, Russia’s foreign and economic policies have heightened its ability to influence affairs in the Middle East and North Africa. This is especially relevant because the region has traditionally orbited the U.S. and Europe, who still have vast political and economic interests across the region.

With Russia now challenging Western supremacy in Arab countries, strategic sectors such as petroleum will become a key avenue of shifting influence. Given Iraq is in possession of the world’s fourth highest proven crude oil reserves, this is likely to have long term consequences over relations on a political level as well.