Strategic interaction between Russia and US in Syria: a game theoretic analysis from 2014-2022
Keywords:Middle East, Syrian conflict, Nash equilibrium, game theory, zero-sum game, regime change, strategic preferences, strategic interest, regional dominance
The strategic interests of Russia and the US clash in the Syrian conflict. Moscow’s policy in Syria aims for the Assad government to remain in power, whereas the US policy seeks to bring a regime change in Syria by toppling the Assad government. The competition and cooperation between Russia and the US in the Middle Eastern region are quite complex and reflect a tussle for regional dominance. A game theoretic analysis is conducted for the interaction between two great powers to examine the strategies opted by both players in the case of the Syrian civil war. This paper analyses the role of Russian and American regional policy objectives in Syria from 2014 to 2022. This study considers the cause-and-effect relationship in the regional supremacy of Russia and the US and studies them as independent variables. The conflict in policy goals of both powers in the Syrian conflict is taken as the dependent variable. The methodology applied in this paper is game theory because it explains cause-and-effect phenomena in a systematic and detailed manner. The game between Russia and the US is to achieve maximum foreign policy objectives in Syria, which is concluded as a zero-sum game from 2014-2022.
Allison, R. (2013). Russia and Syria: explaining alignment with a regime in crisis. International Affairs, 89(4), 795-823. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23479395 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2346.12046
Bhuiyan, B. A. (2018). An overview of game theory and some applications. Philosophy and Progress, 59(1-2), 111-128. https://doi.org/10.3329/pp.v59i1-2.36683 DOI: https://doi.org/10.3329/pp.v59i1-2.36683
Bowen, W. (2020). The Obama administration and Syrian chemical weapons: deterrence, compellence, and the limits of the “resolve plus bombs” formula. Security Studies, 29(5), 797-831. https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2020.1859130 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2020.1859130
Caporaso, J. A. (1992). International relations theory and multilateralism: the search for foundations. International organization, 46(3), 599-632. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300027843 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300027843
Dunne, T. (2021). International relations theories: discipline and diversity. Oxford University. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/hepl/9780198814443.001.0001
Folker, S. (2015). Making sense of international relations theory. Lynne Rienner.
Foot, R. (2020). China, the UN, and human protection: beliefs, power, image. Oxford University. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198843733.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198843733.001.0001
Grieco, J. M. (1988). Anarchy and the limits of cooperation: a realist critique of the newest liberal institutionalism. International Organization, 42(3), 485-507. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300027715 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300027715
Guner, S. (2003). Game theory and international politics. METU Studies in Development, 30(2), 163-180.
Hussain, M., Khan, T., & Hashmi, S. M. (2022). To (or not to) intervene: social constructivist approach to US humanitarian intervention in Libya and non-intervention in Syria. Liberal Arts and Social Sciences International Journal (LASSIJ), 6(1), 201–219. https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.lassij/6.1.13 DOI: https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.lassij/6.1.13
Jervis, R. (1976). Perceptions and Misperceptions in International Politics. Princeton University.
Kaplan, M. A. (2005). System and process in international politics. ECPR Press.
Kaye, D. D. (2022). America's Role in a Post-American Middle East. The Washington Quarterly, 45(1), 45(1), 7-24. https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2022.2058185 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2022.2058185
Khoury, N. (2015, December 16). New Cold War comes to Syria. The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. https://www.thecairoreview.com/contributors/nabeel-khoury/
King, G. (1995). The qualitative-quantitative disputation: Gary King, Robert O. Keohane, and Sidney Verba’s designing social inquiry: scientific inference in qualitative research. American Political Science Review, 89(2), 454-480. https://www.jstor.org/stable/i336279
Kissinger, H. (2011). Years of upheaval. Simon and Schuster.
Lavrov, S. (2011, May 17). On Syria and Libya. MR Online. https://mronline.org/2011/05/17/on-syria-and-libya/
Lavrov, S. (2011). Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at joint press conference with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah AL Nahyan. MID Russia.
Martin, B. (1978). The selective usefulness of game theory. Social Studies of Science, 8(1), 85-110. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/030631277800800103
Mehmood, S., Sulaiman, S., & Jabbar, A. (2022). Discourse analysis of the US War on Terror policy in Afghanistan. Journal of Humanities, Social and Management Sciences (JHSMS), 3(1), 487–500. https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.jhsms/3.1.34 DOI: https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.jhsms/3.1.34
Mesquita, B. B. (1985). Forecasting political events: the future of Hong Kong. Yale University.
Mirza, M. N., Abbas, H., & Qaisrani, I. H. (2021). Anatomising Syrian crisis: Enumerating actors, motivations, and their strategies (2011-2019). Liberal Arts and Social Sciences International Journal (LASSIJ), 5(1), 41–54. https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.lassij/5.1.4 DOI: https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.lassij/5.1.4
Morrow, J. D. (1994). Game theory for political scientists. Princeton University. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780691213200
Nicholas, M. (2019, 12 20). Russia, China veto U.N. approval of aid deliveries to Syria from Turkey. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-un-idUSKBN1YO23V
Nistor, M. A. (2020, April 25). Zero-sum and other statistical games: game theory offers insights into the strategies and decisions of human contestants engaged in competitive situations. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340923078_Zero-Sum_and_Other_Statistical_Games_Game_theory_offers_insights_into_the_strategies_and_decisions_of_human_contestants_engaged_in_competitive_situations
Pappalardo, M. (2008). Multiobjective optimization: a brief overview. Pareto optimality, game theory and equilibria. Springer. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-77247-9 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-77247-9_19
Pollak, N. (2022, December 28). Deepening Russia-Iran relationship should worry Israel. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/deepening-russia-iran-relationship-should-worry-israel
Powell, R. (1999). In the shadow of power: states and strategies in international politics. Princeton University. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv10crg4t DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780691213989
Robinovich, I. (2016, May 4). The Russian-U.S. relationship in the Middle East: a five-year projection. Carenegie Endowment for International Peace. https://carnegieendowment.org/2016/04/05/russian-u.s.-relationship-in-middle-east-five-year-projection-pub-63243
Robinson, K. (2022, July 20). Council on foreign relations. Council of Foreign Relations. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/what-iran-nuclear-deal
Ryan, L. W. (2014, June 1). U.S. insists Assad must go, but expects he will stay. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-syria/u-s-insists-assad-must-go-but-expects-he-will-stay-idUKKBN0EC1F420140601
Sadek, L. (2016). Russia's resurgence in Syria: a new cold war. The American University in Cairo, Master's thesis.
Schmidt, B. C. (2002). Handbook of International Relations. Sage. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.4135/9781848608290 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781848608290
Stien, A. A. (1999). The limits of strategic choice: constrained rationality and incomplete explanation. In Strategic Choices and International Relations (pp. 197-228). Princeston University. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/9780691213095-008
Tayyab, M., Afridi, S. A., & Hamid, M. (2020). Sectarian Divide as a Cause of Protracted Conflict: A Case of Syria (2011-18). Liberal Arts and Social Sciences International Journal (LASSIJ), 4(2), 294–305. https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.lassij/4.2.23 DOI: https://doi.org/10.47264/idea.lassij/4.2.23
Turacy, T. L. (2001, October 8). Game Theory. http://www.cdam.lse.ac.uk/Reports/Files/cdam-2001-09.pdf
Waltz, K. N. (2014). Realist thought and neorealist theory. Routledge.
Wesser, B. (2019, November). The limits of Russian strategy in the middle East. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE340.html
Wight, B. C. (2023). Rationalism and the “rational actor assumption” in realist international relations theory. Journal of International Political Theory, 19(2), 158-182. https://doi.org/10.1177/17550882221144643 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/17550882221144643
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2023 Zohaib Gillani , Saira Aquil, Huda Rehman
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Licensing & Copyright Policies
Articles in LASSIJ-IDEA are Open Access contents published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) http://
The copyright policy of LASSIJ-IDEA is based on a non-exclusive publishing agreement, according to which the LASSIJ-IDEA retains the right of first publication, but the author(s) are free to publish their work subsequently. The copyright of all work rests with the author(s).
The users may use, reproduce, disseminate or display the article(s) provided that the author(s) are attributed as the original creators and that the reuse is restricted to non-commercial purposes, i.e., research or other educational use. Authors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the various Creative Commons licenses.