Russia Blames U.S. for Terrorism and War in the Middle East

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the U.S. was to blame for the terrorism, war and instability racking the Middle East.

In a statement read to participants at a Russian-organized conference on peace in the region, Lavrov said Russia was committed to a process of peaceful dialogue to help solve the Middle East's problems, and suggested that heavy-handed Western foreign policy has caused a range of regional crises, the state-backed Tass news agency reported.

"The Middle East, which has been enduring a period of severe tests, still holds a central place on the global agenda," the statement, read by Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, said. "Both the future of the region's governments, international security and stability hinge on how the situation will develop there."

But in a thinly veiled jab at the U.S. and its allies, the message criticized "methods of geopolitical engineering, attempts at imposing foreign models of development and values on the people of the Middle East and North Africa, especially through the use of force," which Lavrov suggested had "led to the weakening or collapse of states and an unprecedented surge in international terrorism across a whole number of countries."

"In addition, [it] has led to a massive migration crisis, destabilizing the ethno-confessional balance that had consolidated throughout the centuries," the statement continued.

Moscow has been consistently critical of U.S. and Western involvement in the Middle East, particularly in the ongoing civil war in Syria. While Russia has thrown its weight behind President Bashar al-Assad, the Western allies denounced the dictator and offered diplomatic, financial and military support to rebels fighting to overthrow him.

These rebels were largely consumed by more effective Islamist militias, some with links to Al-Qaeda. Syria and its allies—including Iran—have thus accused the U.S. of supporting terrorism within the country.

Russia has also propagated unproven conspiracy theories that the U.S. armed and assisted the ISIS militant as it tore across Syria and Iraq.

Though Lavrov lauded Russia's supposed peaceful approach, Moscow is complicit in a wide range of suspected war crimes committed by forces loyal to Assad. These include repeated chemical weapon attacks on civilians in rebel-held areas, which Russia has sought to cover up or blame on other groups.

Indeed, Russian forces themselves have been accused—as have the U.S. and its allies—of committing their own war crimes in Syria. Massive aerial bombing campaigns have been used by all sides, but the Russian air force has repeatedly employed less sophisticated and unguided "dumb munitions," which critics say almost guarantee significant civilian casualties.

Despite such allegations, Lavrov said Moscow has shown its commitment to diplomacy and compliance with international law.

The Kremlin has also been a long-time opponent of American involvement in Afghanistan and its war in Iraq. Last year, for example, the Russian Ministry of Defense said the emergence of ISIS was "a direct and undisputed result of the US military invasion of the country under a false pretext about Saddam Hussein's possession of chemical weapons."

And in Afghanistan—where the U.S. has accused Russia of supplying weapons to the Taliban—Moscow is attempting to circumvent Washington by holding peace talks between the government and the Taliban, something the U.S. has yet to agree to.

Of course, much of the current instability in Afghanistan can be linked to a Soviet invasion of the country during the Cold War. Thousands of Russians died in the nine-year intervention, fighting in support of a puppet communist government installed in Kabul.

The conflict provided a formative training ground for a huge number of militants that would go on to influence the global Islamic terrorism movement. These included Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—the creator of Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq that would eventually morph into ISIS.

Russia US Middle East Syria terrorism War
Smoke from an airstrike rises over buildings behind Syrian Democratic Forces soldiers on a rooftop near the front line on February 10, in Bagouz, Syria, on the front line against remaining ISIS fighters. Chris McGrath/Getty Images