What The Arab World Thinks Of Russia’s Military Operation Against Ukraine

Arab nations largely think of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as a response to Western disregard for its concerns. Responses vary, with some supporting Russia, and others denouncing adherence to international law. Many advocate a diplomatic resolution.

What The Arab World Thinks Of Russia’s Military Operation Against Ukraine 1

President Vladimir Putin declared the commencement of Russia’s special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Many analysts refer to this date as a turning moment in world history, and others see it as Russia taking the lead militarily for the “global South” in the struggle against the destabilizing Western hegemony that is the foundation of the collapsing global order. The post-Cold War international security framework and its guiding principles have collapsed in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

Russia could retaliate if the West seizes assets, as it has taken conservatorship of assets from several foreign companies estimated at approximately $288 billion, which refused to operate in Russia.

Two aspects of the Ukrainian conflict are revealed by analysis, which makes attempts at a settlement more difficult. In one of his recent essays, renowned Russian scholar Fyodor Lukyanov discussed these two dimensions. First, there are the problems with national self-identification, namely Putin’s 2021 article’s discussion of the “historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Second, given NATO’s ongoing expansion and its antagonistic rhetoric toward Moscow, there are assurances of Russia’s military-political security.

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin is greeted by the President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan before a meeting at Qasr Al Watan Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. ©  Aleksey Nikolskyi / Sputnik

Moscow saw the military scenario as a forced measure brought on by Washington’s and its allies’ refusal to listen to Russia’s concerns. Moscow demonstrated its willingness to engage in diplomatic talks even after February 24, 2022, as demonstrated by the discussions held in Istanbul at the outset of the crisis. Everyone knows that Russia is undoubtedly prepared to defend its interests, but Moscow is also prepared to carry on with the military scenario and to pick up the negotiation process.

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But the Western elites’ ultimate objective is probably to undermine Moscow at all costs, even if it means taking every Ukrainian life in the process. This objective was to be accomplished by arming and funding the Ukrainian Armed Forces and by the West’s attempts to isolate Moscow on a worldwide scale in terms of politics, economy, and culture.

The bulk of people in the Arab world view the Russian military operation precisely like this. They are certain that Russia is at odds with the Western alliance led by Washington rather than the Ukrainians. However, the Arab nations have responded to the Russian military campaign in several ways at the same time. While some nations have adopted a neutral or moderate posture to strike a compromise between their geopolitical interests and their international commitments, the responses range from outspoken support to sharp denunciation.

Certain Arab nations have either adopted a cautious stance or voiced support for Russia, justifying their actions by pointing to their long-standing historical ties to Moscow and their want to uphold strategic alliances. Syria, for instance, has unambiguously endorsed Russia’s activities, which is not unexpected considering that Russia backed President Bashar Assad militarily during the civil war in Syria. Parallel to this, other nations who have strong military and economic relations with Russia have also conveyed a sense of comprehension about Russia’s actions, highlighting the need to uphold state sovereignty and the impossibility of meddling in domestic matters.

However, several Arab nations have denounced the Russian military action in Ukraine because they uphold international law, state sovereignty, and territorial integrity. These nations stress the need to protect people and demand a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. For instance, Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have advocated in the global arena for respecting international law, even though they haven’t endorsed Western sanctions and are still in close contact with Moscow.

To prevent their relations with either side of the crisis from getting worse, many Arab nations have opted for a moderate or neutral stance. They have demanded that international institutions like the United Nations facilitate communication and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. These nations stress the need for international collaboration and diplomacy in settling world disputes.

How the Ukraine conflict affects the Arab world

The Arab world is not an exception to the global shockwaves caused by the crisis in Ukraine. The conflict has had a substantial impact on the region, both politically and economically, despite its distance from other places.

More than 60% of some countries’ needs are met by wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine, which are mostly reliant on the Arab world. In many countries, the war has put food security at risk by upsetting supply systems and driving up costs. costs for wheat and corn have risen by 35% since the conflict’s active phase began, while global food costs have grown by more than 15% overall.

Oil-producing Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have benefited from the conflict, which has driven gas and oil prices to all-time highs. However, the increasing cost of petroleum has boosted transportation expenses and inflation for import-dependent countries, making already difficult economic times worse. Because of the battle and ensuing sanctions, oil prices reached a peak of $125 in the first week of March 2022. The Russian Federation is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and the second-largest exporter of oil. Despite the subsequent decline in oil prices, Brent crude is still trading above the $70 average, around the $80 level. For nations that import oil, this represents a significant financial burden.

Many Arab nations have seen a decline in tourism as a result of the wars, particularly those that attract many visitors from Russia and Ukraine. This industry contributes significantly to the local economy, thus the drop in tourism-related income is a further setback. Because of the fight, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has lowered its prediction for world economic growth in 2022 from 4.9% to 4.4%. The losses to the world economy are projected by analysts to be close to $600 billion. Global inflation is expected to rise by 2.3 percentage points in 2023 and by 3 percentage points in 2022 as a result of rising food and fuel prices.

Certain Arab nations, particularly those that currently experience social unrest or political instability, may see an increase in internal tensions as a result of the economic consequences of the world upheaval brought on by the Russia-West conflict.

The crisis in Ukraine has brought attention to how vulnerable it is to rely on outside food sources. Certain Arab nations are investigating methods to boost their agricultural output and broaden their import portfolio. Furthermore, the energy crisis may hasten the region’s switch to renewable energy sources, enhancing long-term energy security and lowering reliance on fossil fuels.

Regional alliances have already shifted as a result of the crisis, with Arab nations looking for new allies and reevaluating their ties to key powers, especially the US. Prominent Arab nations are currently deepening their connections with non-Western nations including China, India, Russia, and others in the global South.

The Ukraine conflict is a complicated problem with wide-ranging effects. Even while the Arab world has many difficulties, there are still chances for long-term change. The ability of the area to negotiate the political and economic intricacies while maintaining its security and stability will define how it responds to the crisis.

Russia and the Arab world strengthen cooperation 

There were no notable changes in Russia’s relations with the Arab world. Washington and other Western nations exerted considerable pressure, but the tendency toward closer ties persisted. In the wake of geopolitical change, countries have increasingly shown their dedication to remaining neutral and, in certain circumstances, have actively pursued integration into non-Western alliances, highlighting their routes of sovereign growth. Notably, in August 2023, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were accepted as members of BRICS.

Russia’s involvement in the Middle East has proven advantageous for the last two years. The nation’s sway on politics, the military, the economy, and culture has only increased throughout the years. As Russia looks to bolster its influence in the area, this trajectory is anticipated to continue for the foreseeable future.

OPEC+ members, Saudi Arabia among them, backed reductions in oil production in 2023 in the face of persistent pressure from Washington. Riyadh committed to reducing output by one million barrels per day by the beginning of 2024. Although the West views this action as anti-Western, it highlights how Middle Eastern nations defend their national interests. Stable budget revenues are guaranteed by balanced oil prices, which support growth and stability in the economy. Moscow has profited monetarily as well, as seen by rising oil and gas prices. The OPEC+ agreements’ renewal until 2024 emphasizes how beneficial they are to both parties. Moscow’s energy relations with its Middle Eastern allies are thriving, showing confidence and a will to work together despite pressure from the West.

Leaders from the Middle East have actively participated in several Russian forums over the last year, demonstrating the increasing engagement between the areas. Notably, President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates was the guest of honor at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Putin praised the positive bilateral ties after the talks and Al Nahyan underlined that the UAE anticipates receiving more than a million Russian visitors and is willing to assist in resolving the conflict in Ukraine.

President of Algeria Abdelmadjid Tebboune visited Russia on a state visit in June, after which he took part in the SPIEF. Tebboune discussed his views on Russia’s and Africa’s global roles during the forum, emphasizing the value of strategic alliances. Similarly, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met at the second Russia-Africa summit in July in St. Petersburg. Moscow and Cairo collaborate in both the political and military domains in addition to the economy.

Participating in Russian Energy Week in October, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani highlighted the many facets of cooperation between Moscow and Baghdad, particularly in the energy sector. Finally, Oman’s Crown Prince Theyazin bin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said was welcomed to the “Russia Calling!” meeting in December. His words demonstrated Muscat’s willingness to contribute to the new paradigm while expressing a goal for a more equitable global order.

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, started official visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in early December. He had not visited these nations in four years, and the conversation spanned a wide range of bilateral topics. Putin’s greeting in Abu Dhabi, which resembled a state visit more than a working one, was extensively reported by the world press.

The United Arab Emirates is Russia’s biggest regional investor, and trade and economic ties between the two countries are growing. Furthermore, there is an increasing level of humanitarian collaboration between the two nations. Additionally, they are extending their cooperation on military and political matters as well as the energy industry.

Putin went to Riyadh following his visit to Abu Dhabi, where he met with Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the prime minister and crown prince of Saudi Arabia. A wide range of topics were discussed during their conversations, such as the state of the area, worldwide challenges, bilateral cooperation, the North-South international transit corridor, Ukraine, and OPEC+ accords.

The last Arab-related event of the year was held in the ancient Moroccan city of Marrakech, Morocco, during the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum plenary session. Greetings were sent to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by his Moroccan colleague, Nasser Bourita, who emphasized the forum’s significance in bolstering ties between the Russian Federation and the Arab world. The purpose of this gathering, the sixth of its sort since the inaugural one in 2013, was to examine several local, national, and international issues, with an emphasis on the issue of an unfair global system.

A draft “Marrakech Declaration” was created after the talks, outlining the shared objectives and stances of the participating nations on significant regional and global concerns. It also provided a detailed action plan for the Russian-Arab Cooperation framework for the years 2024–2026.

On the way to a new world order: Russia and the Arab world

The Marrakech meeting demonstrated Russia’s and the Arab world’s shared commitment to working together to create a more equitable international order. It brought attention to the two sides’ increasingly aligned goals as they worked to lessen their reliance on Western influence. Furthermore, this conference showed Russia’s growing significance in the Middle East and gave Russia a chance to reiterate its commitment to cooperation with the Arab world in the context of the ongoing Ukraine situation.

Since the beginning of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, relations between Moscow and the Arab nations have not undergone any significant changes, but the bilateral agenda is still full. Not only have the Arab nations remained positively neutral toward Russia, but they have also made an effort to mediate the situation in Ukraine. As a result, there is now more mutual trust between Russia and the Middle Eastern nations, which has facilitated the growth of several relationships, including commercial and economic, humanitarian, and military-political ones. Moscow and the nations of the Middle East are working together to bring an end to the hegemony of Washington and its allies, who have been destroying nations like Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Libya for decades.

The Arab world’s involvement in mediating the Ukrainian conflict is a hint of larger international efforts to resolve the situation diplomatically. To lessen tensions and encourage communication between the parties involved in the crisis, the League of Arab States and several Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, have made an effort. These nations understand the significance of stability in Ukraine and its consequences for international peace and security, notwithstanding their geographic isolation from the area.

The Arab countries’ attempts at mediation often entail diplomatic activities meant to promote peaceful conflict resolution processes, facilitate discussions, and foster dialogue. Their shared objective is to encourage communication and discover a solution that satisfies all parties, even though the details of their engagement may differ.

The Arab world’s dedication to maintaining international peace and stability as well as its understanding of how intertwined all crises are are reflected in these mediation efforts. The Arab nations are exhibiting their commitment to support the values of diplomacy and negotiation while also constructively contributing to the resolution of disputes outside of their region by engaging in mediation.

As a result, the way that the Arab nations have responded to Russia’s military activity in Ukraine illustrates the complexity of international relations and the range of interests that these nations must balance. While some nations show sympathy or understanding for Russia’s actions, others denounce them and demand a diplomatic settlement to the dispute. The majority of them, however, place a strong emphasis on diplomacy and global collaboration while attempting to avoid becoming directly involved in the fight.

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