The Gulf's reaction to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

The outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict highlighted the persistence of certain rifts within the Gulf Cooperation Council. Its various members reacted to the Russian invasion in different ways, for a wide range of reasons. Considering the change in the international scenario already underway, the relations between the Gulf monarchies and the Western allies are also experiencing a change, due to some changes in the strategic considerations of the actors involved.

Let us therefore see what the actions of the main actors on the Arabian Peninsula have been and the motivations behind the different approaches to the conflict between Kiev and Moscow.

The conflict seen from the Gulf: cautious supporters of Kiev and equidistant pragmatists

Two countries on the Arabian Peninsula have not failed to give immediate support to Kiev's integrity and sovereignty: Kuwait and Qatar. There are mainly two explanations. First, both countries have experienced direct threats to their security from neighbouring regional powers. Kuwait has memories of the Iraqi invasion and Doha has experienced a period of isolation imposed on it by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Doha, however, combines historical reasons with its particular contingent strategic position within the regional framework. The small emirate was recently designated a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) by the White House. This recognition is the result of a long effort of soft power that has brought this small power to the centre of the informal and informal mediation processes of some important critical dossiers. Doha has acted as a diplomatic bridge between the Taliban regime and the United States, which also considers the Arab ally a possible mediator for the new nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite a convinced alignment with its Western allies, Qatar must still maintain a modus vivendi with Moscow, given its cooperation within the GEFC (Gas Exporting Countries Forum). Furthermore, although willing to help European countries in the process of decoupling from Russian gas supplies, the Qatari leadership has admitted that it cannot totally satisfy excess European demand.

In contrast, the Saudi monarchy and the Emirati federation took divergent positions vis-à-vis their regional partners and Western allies. Both countries did not openly condemn Russian aggression and the Emirates abstained during the vote to condemn the aggression at the UN Security Council, along with Beijing and New Delhi. Dubai has become one of the places where many Russian oligarchs have taken refuge. This behaviour does not imply a new pro-Russian strategic positioning on the part of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, but rather a desire to break free from the constraints imposed by a rigid pro-Western alignment. These two powers are the actors that have most perceived and feared American withdrawal from their regional quadrant. In recent years, these two powers have had to deal with the direct threats to their security posed by the Yemeni Houthi rebels, whom President Biden had removed from the list of terrorist organisations recognised by his government at the start of his term of office. Riyadh, in particular, while promoting a path of de-escalation, continues to fear the regional hegemony aims of its Iranian rival, with whom the US presidency is now trying to mend fences through a new nuclear agreement. Moreover, for both countries Moscow remains a partner as well as a competitor in the management of the oil market. This is why, despite pressure from Washington and other European allies, they have not promoted decisive policy changes aimed at lowering prices within OPEC. At the same time and in order to compensate for the risks due to American disengagement, the Emiratines continue to pursue the construction of a new regional security framework with Israel, an actor who is in turn worried by Iranian regional revisionism and who at the same time has an interest in maintaining a pragmatic cooperation approach with Moscow regarding the Syrian dossier. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates thus seek to apply a multi-sectoral and pragmatic foreign policy focused on the national interest.

Translated by Margherita Folci

Sources consulted for this article:

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  • L'Autore

    Michele Magistretti

    Mi chiamo Michele Magistretti, classe 1997, nato a Milano ma residente a Buccinasco.

    Dopo aver ottenuto il diploma di maturità linguista al liceo civico Alessandro Manzoni, ho conseguito la laurea triennale in Scienze Politiche presso l'Università Statale di Milano dove attualmente frequento il corso magistrale di Relazioni Internazionali. Appassionato di Storia fin da bambino ho maturato negli anni una passione per la Geopolitica e le Relazioni Internazionali.

    In Mondo Internazionale ricopro il ruolo di relatore nel progetto di "Framing the World", nel quale mi occupo della sezione MENA.

    My name is Michele Magistretti, born in 1997 in Milan but resident in Buccinasco.

    After obtaining a high school diploma in linguistics at the Alessandro Manzoni civic high school, I took a three-year degree in Political Science at the State University of Milan, where I am currently attending the master's course in International Relations. Passionate about history since I was a child, over the years I have developed a passion for Geopolitics and International Relations.

    At Mondo Internazionale I am an author in the "Framing the World" report, in which I write about the MENA section.


From the World Middle East & North Africa Sections International Security Framing the World


#geopolitica #geopolitics #UAE #EAU #Arabia Saudita #Saudi #Qatar #guerra #kiev #mosca #ucraina #russia

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