The Utilization of Islam in Russia’s Foreign Policy: Pathways of Engagement Between Muslim Russia and the States of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Diana Galeeva

This study draws on the concept of soft power to analyze Russia’s interactions with the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It offers a framework for understanding the utilization of Islam in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East under Putin. Concretely, it argues that the religious identities that Russia perceives to be shared between its Muslim- majority regions and the Arab Gulf states have been strategically selected for utilization. The study argues that dimensions of this utilization of Islam include interactions between Russia’s Muslim-majority regions and the GCC states, alongside efforts by religious organizations, business associations, and non-government organizations to promote policies at the federal level that advance Russia’s ties with the Gulf countries. This strategy, underway since the early 2000s, has assisted Russia in its efforts to promote its security, political and economic interests in the Gulf.