Arab Youth Survey 2018: Washington's downfall in the Arab world is matched by Moscow's rise in influence

Most young Arabs now see the US as an enemy, view Russia as an ally, and think the election of Donald Trump is a bad thing

Young Arabs view the Russian leader as strong and stable, and strongly disapprove of Donald Trump. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds and Mikhail Metzel / AFP
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America’s long decline as a role model for young Arabs has continued under the presidency of Donald Trump.

In worse news for the United States and its allies, young Arabs now see Russia as the rising force in the region.

The change in perception began under former president Barack Obama, who held back from military intervention in Syria and is seen in the Arabian Gulf as being dangerously weak in the face of Iran’s regional aggression.

Asked who was their country's biggest ally, they failed to place the United States in the top five for the first time.

Most named the UAE, at 37 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Russia came in at fourth, with one in five young Arabs saying the Putin regime was their biggest ally.

Russia’s military intervention in Syria and its support of President Bashar Assad are undoubtedly a major factor in the change of attitude.

Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and columnist for The National, said Russia's long absence from Middle East politics had left Moscow with "something of a clean slate".


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While many young Arabs strongly disapproved of the Syrian regime, “Russia has created the impression of being a strong and decisive power, a steadfast ally, a force for stability and state sovereignty, and a winner," he said. “Nothing succeeds like success.”

In the Levant, which includes Lebanon and Jordan, one in three see Russia as the top non-Arab ally, a view held by just 9 per cent in 2016.

America’s stock has fallen from 25 per cent to 13 per cent in the same period.

Roy Cooper
Roy Cooper

When asked how they saw the US in relation to their country, nearly six out of 10 young Arabs across the Mena region described Washington as an enemy.

This rose to 65 per cent in the Levant, but even in the GCC, 55 per cent took a hostile view of the US’ intentions.

The reasons behind America’s decline are varied but 73 per cent think the election of Mr Trump will have a negative impact on the region.

More than half are encouraged by the US withdrawal from Iraq but 60 per cent think the deal with Iran over its nuclear ambitions – ironically something President Trump says he will overturn – was a negative move.

Roy Cooper
Roy Cooper