28 October, 2012, Issue 5002
Russia's approach to the Middle East is based on a worldview that is fundamentally different from the one shared by the West.
The currently dominant discourse in Russia is that of a culture that incorporates both Western and Eastern influences while preserving its own distinctiveness. As supporters of the so-called "civilizational approach", they insist on protecting Russia's distinct values, and their foreign policy debate is increasingly framed in cultural categories.
The Kremlin has identified two prominent threats to its vision of Russia as a civilization at the intersection of the Western and Islamic worlds. The first of these threats is radicalized and militant Islam. Russian analysts and politicians often speak of special relations with Muslims but differentiate between moderate and radical Islamists. President Vladimir Putin has expressed his respect for traditional Islam, saying that it is integral to Russia's religious, cultural and social fabric. Putin has also made a point of separating moderate Islam from "all forms of religious intolerance and extremism."