Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Russian Influence in the Middle East: A New Era?

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join the Program on U.S.-Russian Relations for a panel discussion with leading specialists on Russian foreign policy.  Russia’s 2015 intervention in Syria and its diplomatic access to all the region’s states attest to Russia’s growing role in Middle East political dynamics. Maintaining that role will require deft navigation of the ongoing competition among the region’s aspiring hegemons: Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Our speakers will examine the challenges facing Moscow as it seeks to manage these relationships.


Russia in the Middle East: Priorities and Challenges
Peter Clement, Senior Research Scholar/Adjunct Professor at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University

Russia and Turkey: A Conflicted Alignment
Robert O. Freedman, Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew University; Visiting Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University

Russia and Iran: It’s Complicated.
Carol R. Saivetz, Senior Advisor in the MIT Security Studies Program; Research Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

Moderated by Elise Giuliano, Lecturer in Discipline, Political Science at Columbia University; Director of the Program on U.S.-Russia Relations and MARS-REERS Program Director at the Harriman Institute.


Peter Clement is Senior Research Scholar/Adjunct Professor at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. He teaches courses on Contemporary Russian Security Policy and Intelligence and US Foreign Policy. Clement comes to SIPA from CIA, where he served as Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Europe and Eurasia since 2015. From 2005-2013, he was Deputy Director for Intelligence for Analytic Programs. Other senior positions include tours as Director of the Office of Russian and Eurasian Analysis and CIA’s Russia Issue Manager from 1997-2003. Clement served as the PDB daily briefer for Vice-President Cheney, NSC Adviser Rice and Deputy NSC Adviser Hadley in 2003-2004. He briefly served at the National Security Council as the Director for Russia and later served as the senior CIA representative to the US Mission to the United Nations. Clement has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2001 and is a longtime member of the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies. He taught Russian history and politics for over 10 years as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia’s northern Virginia campus. He has published journal articles and book chapters on Soviet and Russian foreign policy, Central Asia, and the Cuban missile crisis. Clement holds a Ph.D. in Russian history and an M.A. in Modern European history from Michigan State University, and a B.A. in liberal arts from SUNY-Oswego.

Robert O. Freedman is Peggy Meyerhoff Pearlstone Professor of Political Science emeritus at Baltimore Hebrew University, and is currently Visiting Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University where he teaches courses on the Arab-Israeli Conflict and on Russian Foreign Policy. He is the author of seven books on Soviet and Russian foreign policy, including Soviet Policy Toward the Middle East Since 1970 (Praeger Press, 1982); Moscow and the Middle East: Soviet Policy Since the Invasion of Afghanistan (Cambridge University Press, 1991); Soviet-Israeli Relations Under Gorbachev (Praeger 1991); and Russia, Iran, and the Nuclear Question: The Putin Record (Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 2007). In 1989, Dr. Freedman was a member of a Brookings Institution delegation that went to Tunis for discussions with Palestinian leaders about the peace process. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he participated, as the American representative, in three conferences in Europe with European political leaders and scholars who dealt with the problem of improving US-European cooperation in the Middle East. Dr. Freedman has lectured to the Israeli Defense Ministry and the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and appeared on the London-based Arab TV station Al-Mustakillah. He has interviewed Israeli leaders including Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon and Tzippy Livni, and Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. He has also been a commentator on National Public Radio, the Voice of America, the BBC, and Moscow Radio on Russian and American  policy in the Middle East. Dr. Freedman is currently completing a book on Russia and the Middle East under Putin. He received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania and his MA and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia University.

Carol R. Saivetz is a Senior Advisor in the MIT Security Studies Program. She is also a Research Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. She holds an M.I.A., M.Phil., and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in Political Science and a certificate from what is now the Harriman Institute at Columbia. Between 1995-2005, she was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and between 1992-2006 she was a Lecturer in Government at Harvard. She is currently teaching Russian Foreign Policy in the Political Science Department at MIT. Professor Saivetz has consulted for the US Government on topics ranging from energy politics in the Caspian and Black Sea regions, questions of stability in Central Asia, to Russian policy toward Iran. She is the author and contributing co-editor of 5 books and numerous articles on Soviet and now Russian foreign policy issues, including an assessment of the “reset,” Russian policies toward the other Soviet successor states, and current US-Russian relations. Her current research interest is energy competition in and around the Black Sea region and Russian-Turkish relations.  Her most recent publications analyze the newly resurgent Russia’s policies—including energy politics, and reactions to EU and NATO expansion. She has also published opinion pieces on the Ukraine crisis and Russian intervention in Syria for the Lawfare Blog (Brookings) and commented on Ukraine for local radio and TV. She is the co-chair of the MIT seminar series “Focus on Russia,” sponsored by the MIT Security Studies Program, the Center for International Studies, and MIT-Russia.

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