Maybe Russians troops are better than Hezbollah, on many accounts. But I can’t help thinking that a generation, some 25 years in the making in the Middle East, has been squandered. Moscow withdrew from Middle Eastern politics with the fall of the Soviet empire and is back now in Syria and Iran. Does it mean that the region was actually better rather than “worse off” when the Soviets were there? Certainly, the region was less chaotic, although objectively, Israel was then in much greater existential danger than now.

But the current situation makes things far more complicated, because the wishes and desires of the Russians must be taken into account. This seems to me the West squandered 25 years in which, we, the forces that fought the Soviet presence there for almost half a century, could have shaped the region for the better, because we were practically unhindered. Instead, we made a mess of it, and now Moscow is back.

So perhaps we should reflect on what we did wrong over the past 25 years in the region, even going beyond the easy blaming game of the Bush junior Iraq war and the jasmine revolutions. Europe is also guilty of being badly wrong. This includes its sins of omissions and inability to craft its own foreign policy in the Middle East. But I wonder if Israel was also totally innocent in these 25 years? Could it have done more or better for the region? After all, it is the one reliable country that knows the region best.

These questions may be relevant for the future, because the Russians for sure, are here to stay. The Chinese are possibly coming too, so what should be done now for the future?

Francesco Sisci is an Italian sinologist, author and columnist who lives and works in Beijing. He works for the Catholic research center

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