American University of Beirut

The Great Game in the Levant: Russia’s Interests in Lebanon



Yeghia Tashjian, MA, Associate Fellow at IFI​​​​

Like other regional powers, Russia has taken major steps to advance its geopolitical interests in the Levant. One of its main goals in the Middle East is to expand its geopolitical influence and control the vast energy resources in the region. Although it only has a naval military base in Tartus (Syria) and no borders on the Mediterranean Sea, Russia has managed to exert its influence around nearby countries, including Lebanon. 

In the last few years, Russia started playing a larger role in Lebanon following the growing civil unrest in Syria and the defeat of ISIS. The international power particularly intervenes in finding solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis since Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Interestingly, Moscow has recently been showing greater interest in Lebanon’s domestic affairs, specifically when it comes to government formation. During the past six months, Russian officials have held dozens of public official meetings with high-level and senior Lebanese officials. The details of these meetings touched on the formation of the Lebanese government, the Syrian crisis, regional issues, and investment proposals from the Russian side targeting Lebanon’s energy sector and ports.

These activities hint that Russia has been playing an active role in Lebanon and views it as an extension of its regional policy towards Syria. This paper analyzes the roots of Russia’s pro-active diplomacy towards Lebanon. For this purpose, it discusses Russia’s energy security, security-military, and political relations with Lebanon, and explores whether Moscow has long-term interests in the country and what are the limitations It faces.  

Yeghia Tashjian is a regional analyst and researcher. He has graduated from the American University of Beirut in Public Policy and International Affairs. He pursued his BA at Haigazian University in Political Science in 2013. He founded the New Eastern Politics forum/blog in 2010. He was a Research Assistant at the Armenian Diaspora Research Center at Haigazian University. Currently, he is the Regional Officer of Women in War, a gender-based think tank. He has participated in international conferences in Frankfurt, Vienna, Uppsala, New Delhi, Rome, and Yerevan, and presented various topics from minority rights to regional security issues. His thesis topic was on China’s geopolitical and energy security interests in Iran and the Persian Gulf. He is a contributor to the various local and regional newspapers, columnist for the Armenian Weekly, and presenter of the “Turkey Today” program in Radio Voice of Van. Lately, he has joined the European Geopolitical Forum as an affiliate expert on the Middle East and South Caucasus.

​​​Read the analysis​

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