The theme of continuity has become increasingly prevalent in evaluations of Russian foreign policy in general and in the Middle East in particular. But Russia today is neither the expanding Russian empire of the 19th century nor the Soviet Union of the Cold War, striving to expand its spheres of influence over all continents. Contemporary Russia is a poorly consolidated state, with a psychologically wounded society, facing a future full of uncertainty. Russia has no resources for reviving an expansionist policy beyond the borders of the former empire. One new factor that has begun to acquire special importance in Russia's policy regarding Turkey and Iran is the Caspian Sea oil. Still, Russia's policy in the Middle East remains largely a function of the Russia-US-NATO relationship. Russia, like the West, finds its interests best served by supporting stability in the Middle East. But Primakov's activity in the Middle East has not been free of elements of simply showing the flag, point-scoring -- and putting spanners in the works when possible.