Intense domestic travails have not deterred post-Communist Russia from seeking re-engagement in the Middle East. The appointment in 1996 of Primakov as Russian foreign minister seemed to reflect a stimulation of interest. But both Russia's
influence in the region overall and its position as a foreign policy priority have declined. Russia has disengaged from the Arab-Israeli conflict, which it sees as peripheral to its vital interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Arabs on both official and public opinion levels want Russia to be involved, but not on Cold War confrontational terms. Leftists, Arab nationalists and socialist movements would like its return. The nuclear non-proliferation angle, after the Indian and Pakistani explosions, provides an opportunity for Russia to erode some of Washington's
influence. However, the main needs for involvement are political prestige, economic assistance and the repayment of debts.