The Russian attack on Ukraine and its effects on the Middle East

Russia versus Ukraine vying for top position in Ukraine in a war. (Photo by Shutterstock)
In this article Ahmad Abdel-Rahman explains what some of the geopolitical effects of the Russia-Ukraine war might be on the Middle East.

The international conflict between Russia and Ukraine highlights the intensity of conflict between the US and Russia. Russia wants to end American hegemony in the world and shift towards a multipolar system with China as part of it. It is for this reason, that some believe that this crisis may constitute a turning point with the existing international balance of power.

In addition, the outbreak of open conflict, which could lead to a third world war, would present the world with catastrophic humanitarian and economic challenges. The military buildup, which brings back memories of the Cold War, could have far-reaching effects. Here are some that could affect the Middle East.

Geopolitical effects: Parties to the Russia-Ukraine conflict are linked to vital interests in the Middle East. For example, the Gulf States, individually and together, are an important ally of the US and Europe, while Iran has an important alliance with Russia and China. Therefore, the more the conflict in Ukraine intensifies, the more the repercussions will reverberate in the Middle East. Before the attack on Ukraine, Russia announced its intention to conduct naval exercises in the Mediterranean, and that it had transferred bombers and aircraft equipped with hypersonic missiles to its air base in Syria. This was an indication that the region is not far from the conflict and the tensions that are evident in the Ukraine crisis could manifest themselves any time.

Effects on Regional Conflicts: Syria is likely to be the country in the Levant that is most affected by the crisis. The US and Europe can put pressure on Russia concerning its influence in Syria. Experts point out that reaching a settlement between the parties to the conflict in Ukraine will not exclude reaching a bargain over Syria, which will have consequences for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Iran, and Turkey. They will have difficult choices in light of their shifting relations with Russia, the United States and the West.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, it intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 on the side of the Syrian regime. Moscow's motives aimed at creating a more equal balance of power in the Middle East; a focus of conflict away from its own geopolitical sphere of influence; controlling the competing energy transport projects. besieging NATO from its southern flank in the Mediterranean as well as from the Black Sea and creating new geostrategic points linking the regions of Russian influence . If the Middle East is drawn into the Ukraine-Russia conflict this could lead to a polarisation within the region.

Economic effects: The global economy is suffering from weak economic growth and a sharp rise in inflation. The Russia-Ukraine war has already contributed to a rise in global oil and gas prices, base metals, electronic conductors, and fertilizers, posing a serious challenge to global economic growth. As well as oil and gas, Russia is a major producer and exporter of products that constitute an important proportion of the global market, such as fertilizers, and minerals including nickel, aluminum, palladium and platinum.

There is no doubt that the crisis is out of control and will have dire consequences for European economies - especially Germany, which mainly depends on Russia for gas and energy.  Europe as a whole, which depends on Russia for nearly a third of its oil and gas needs, will face a severe shortage of these items, so an alternative source of supply must be found. But until then oil and gas prices will remain high. There will also be a further rise in production costs, freight, and insurance costs, and a possible disruption to supply chains.

Moreover, the blockade of Ukraine will pose challenges related to global food security, given the relative advantages that Ukraine enjoys in the agricultural sector. It is a leading exporter of wheat, corn, meat, poultry and other basic food products. As these products become in increasingly short supply, prices of these products will continue to rise. This comes at a time when countries are trying to put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US and European sanctions package against Russia are likely to impact not only its trading partners but also individuals, companies, and official entities in the Middle East. Since some countries in the region have strong economic relations with Russia, these sanctions may impede cooperation with it.

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The Russian-Ukrainian war: the impact on MENA
 

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Sunday, 25 September 2022