Country Report – Qatar and Russia (3)


Explaining DME Activity: Russia Relative Strengths and Weaknesses Within its Strategic Environment


Natural Resources. Russia’s huge natural resources are the most powerful strength of Russia within its strategic environment. Russia’s natural resources make 20% of the world natural resources alone. Large reserves of oil and gas, minerals, ores, diamonds, and forests, they all provide Russia with a good economic support. Russia still relies heavily on oil and gas for its capital wealth. Being the number one gas exporter in the world, these natural resources makes Russia self-sufficient in almost every industry[1]. Russia plays a key strategic and economic role in the world.

Defence Industry. Russia is the second largest arms exporter in the world. The defence industry is the second most strategically important sector in Russia’s economy, besides the oil and gas industry. The arms industry not only provides a major employment platform to the Russian Federation but also brings lots of money. Approx. $15 billion USD worth exports were made in 2017[2]. After the Syrian war, the political and military engagement of Russia in Syria brought new opportunities to showcase the capabilities of Russian’s weapons. This showcase resulted in increased demand for Russian made weaponry in the Middle East. Increased export of Russian weaponry demonstrates the political muscle and better diplomacy behind the better foreign policy of Moscow.

Relative Stability. Putin’s decade-long regime with strong control on the army, divided opposition, silent society with no mass social protests[3], makes the country a relatively stable state. The stability in Russian Ruble with a slight increase, viable in previous months, provide advantages and support for foreign investors to invest in the country’s booming industrialization.


Transportation. Transportation and geography are the two main factors that cause economic failure in the agricultural sector. In spite of some of the finest agriculture lands in the world, the lack of proper agricultural transport resulted in limited affluence. Russia’s river doesn’t provide interconnected paths for transportation. Similarly, the railroad network, even being the largest in the world, cannot stand a chance to withstand the bulk agricultural transport from far away land to the central empire[4].

Poor Human Resource Quality. Despite having a huge labour force, the overall condition of human resource is not so good. Current human resource in Russia faces a series of challenges that creates problems for new investments in the country. Lack of qualified management, due to the fall in the birth rate in 1980’s, the short-sightedness of Russians in terms of career development and frequently changing labour reforms are some of the key issues related to the human resource quality. A high number of skilled personnel lives in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg who are not willing to relocate to remote areas are also a major issue in hampering of new business opportunities in Russia[5].

Political Interference. Political interference in the administration is another major weakness that destroys the foreign investment opportunities in Russia. President is allowed to appoint or dismal top and middle management in the administration. Similarly, in the lower administration ministers have open political interference[6]. Appointing favourite individuals results in the change of the whole top order administration, in case of any government change, leaving the foreign and local investor open to economic vulnerabilities.

Over-Reliance on Oil and Gas. In spite of the huge amount of natural resources, poor financial and monetary management and regulations along with over-reliance on oil and gas have muffled the Russian economy. Because of passive oil prices, the decline in oil and gas production, non-exploration of further reservoirs and current regional security situation, there is some economic risk present. Multiple sanctions and border conflicts along with the decreased consumption and reliance on hydrocarbons from West also raise the question on the current fiscal policy of Moscow.

Table 1. Summary of Russia’s Strategic Outlook

Strength Natural Resources

Major Defence Industry

Relative Stability

Weakness Poor Transportation

Poor Human Resource Quality

Political Interference

Over-Reliance on Oil and Gas

Opportunities New Possible Weapon Market in the Middle East

Power Show to Rivals

Middle Eastern Investment

Threats Western Sanctions
Oil Price Fluctuation

Volatile Economy

Decreased foreign Investment Plan

Regional Security

Evaluation of Qatar’s Relation with Russia

Moscow’s increasing impact in the Middle East and Qatar’s attempt to get out of the regional isolation have brought the two countries nearer. New bilateral cooperation and military and economic agreements are dually signed in recent years.

Diplomatic Relations

Official Russia-Qatar relations are short and have several dimensions. Throughout the Cold War era, Russia and Qatar had no diplomatic ties. With Gorbachev’s perestroika, diplomatic ties between the two countries were finally established in 1988. Yet, to say the least, Russia-Qatar relations were not as friendly in the initial phases. Early on, during Putin’s time, it was acknowledged that Qatar’s help in the energy sector can help Russia in the long run. However, these plans were put on hold largely due to Qatar support to Chechen separatists. In 2004, the relations reached the lowest point as security operatives from Russia plotted an assassination bid of a prominent Chechen separatist leader, Zelimkhan Yandarbiev in Doha.

Russia-Qatar relations improved softly during 2005-06 right after Putin jet-off to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan respectively. Improvement in the ties was chiefly due to the proposal offered by Iranian leader Khamenei seeking to work hand-in-hand with Russia in a bid to establish a natural gas cartel. Following the series of revolutions and protests – known as Arab Spring – and the Syrian war affected Russia-Qatar ties adversely. Russia and Qatar have supported opposite sides in the Syrian war for years on end. Nonetheless, the two leading nations in terms of natural gas exporters clearly have good motive to overlook the differences in the Middle East and begin cooperation in the energy sector by addressing other issues. Former Russian Prime Minister Mr. Viktor Zubkov is the most prominent representative of this circle. Zubkov’s February 2013 visit to Doha opened up new prospects for a healthy development of ties between the two countries.

Military Relations

The military relationship between Qatar and Russia are sprouting up. Qatar is going to finalize the purchase agreements of advanced Russian S-400 anti-missile defence system. Defining the military relations with Qatar, that have the biggest US military base, is a crucial move for Russia. Whilst, the Russian Federation is looking forward to having a new partner in the Syrian war, Qatar is also looking for external help to conclude its Gulf separation. Participation of Qatar in 2016 and 2018 ARMY: International Military-Technical Forum, held in Russia, was a fruitful moment in Qatar-Russia military relationship[7].

Economic Relations

For the last two decades, Russia-Qatar economic ties have dragged heels. From 2010 till 2014, the average turnover from bilateral trade was calculated as no more than USD 54 million and plunged to half of the mentioned figure by 2015. According to a statement from Russia’s embassy in Qatar, “Russia-Qatar economic ties have boosted mainly due to the healthy energy sector cooperation under the gas exporting countries forum framework”. 2016 brought several drastic changes to this picture: Russia and Qatar rhetoric changed following Qatari ameer’s visit to Russia resulting in the conclusion of a number of agreements and deals.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Current analysis of Russia foreign policies and investigation of Qatar’s interests in developing bilateral terms with Russia reveals that a strong political, diplomatic, economic and military relationship in between these two countries is crucial and favourable for Qatar’s isolation with other Arab states. Similarly, Qatar’s strategic and military support to the Russian Federation will prove Russia with an opportunity to established its feet in the middle eastern region. Since the two states are leading exporters of natural gas, therefore their mutual investment in the gas sector will help both the countries in exploiting the full market share. Russia’s military adventures in the region need new partners. Qatar can be a good opportunity if it wants to loosen the ties with the US government, an ally of Saudi Arabia. Russia’s silence and unbiased reaction on Qatari crisis will surely provide a good foundation for the bilateral relations.

A friendliness can be developed through the combined military training and purchase of Russian weapons. Since Russia is the exporter of almost every natural resources, Qatar can rely on Russia for its basic industrial needs. Russia can also serve Qatar as a gateway for the eastern economic market. The proposed strategy for the relationship between the countries is summarized in table 2.

Table 2. A potential engagement strategy with Russia

Qatar Russia Outcomes
Security Issues Weapons Reduced influence of US, an Ally of Saudi Arab.
Requires labour Human Resource Increased credibility.
Investors Large Natural Resources Mutual financial expansion.

Key facts

Official Name: Russian Federation
Independence Day: 12 June (1990)
National Anthem: Gosudarstvenny gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii’
President: Vladimir Putin (2012)
Minister of Defense Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu (2012)
Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov (2012)
Language Russian
Currency Russian Ruble (RUB)
Land area/Coastline: 17,098,246 km2 / 37,653 km
Neighbouring Countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, North Korea
Travel Time from Doha: 5 hours 15 minutes (non-stop)
Time Difference UTC+2 to +12
International Dialling Code: +7

[1] Hays 2016

[2] Brown 2018

[3] Petrov 2010

[4] Friedman 2012

[5] World Bank 2003

[6] “Human Resources Management Country Profiles Russian Federation” 2012

[7] “Qatar Boosts Military, Trade Ties with Russia” 2018


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