The past week has been highly symbolic in the Middle East, shining a spotlight on the contrasting trajectories of Russia and the US. While US forces were scrambling to evacuate northern Syria, Russia’s allies were taking their place and President Vladimir Putin was receiving the red-carpet treatment in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

It would be a stretch too far to suggest that Russia has usurped the US as the most critical foreign power in the region, but it is certainly capitalizing on its rival’s diminished stature. (CONTINUED - 922 WORDS)