Salem Al Ketbi: UAE mediates Ukraine war with different tact


The UAE’s role and efforts to find a way out of the crisis in Ukraine are not aimed at striking a balance in relations with Russia on the one hand and the West on the other
The Russian and Western-backed Ukrainian sides seem to be in dire need of smart diplomatic mediation. Countries with great development ambitions are no doubt the ones that suffer the most from chaos and international instability, including the outbreak of wars and the emergence of crises that hinder the aspirations of these countries and prevent them from achieving their development goals. The UAE’s view of regional and international crises can be understood from this perspective.

One can also understand the state’s recent policy of “problem zeroing.” This perspective is also one of the driving forces and motivations behind the recent important visit of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, to Russia.

The Russian and Western-backed Ukrainian sides seem to be in dire need of smart diplomatic mediation based on strong relations and general acceptance on all sides. It is obvious that if we leave things as they are without playing a serious international role to contain the rapid development of the crisis with its unfortunate consequences, it will cost the whole world dearly.

The problem here is not stated policy and institutional deterrence, which under normal circumstances prevent the expansion of military confrontation and the slide into nuclear war. But rather it has to do first of all with the exceptionalism of the status quo, in which tensions escalate at a very rapid pace. Secondly, it has to do with misperceptions and bad judgment.


This is the most dangerous factor in these conditions. There is a complete lack of communication and engagement between the main stakeholders in the crisis.

The situation began to differ from similar major crises such as the Cuban Missile Crisis between the US and the former Soviet Union, which were handled with great precision, as opposed to what is happening now in terms of uncalculated escalation and proxy war.

Third, the point is that it is important to have mediators who can offer compromises that save the face of the parties and some measure of their strategic interests from the zero-sum game they are now playing that cannot lead to a certain end to the crisis.

The UAE’s role and efforts to find a way out of the crisis in Ukraine are not aimed at striking a balance in relations with Russia on the one hand and the West on the other. Rather, they assume this balance; they do not seek it because it is already a reality. The UAE position has been known since the beginning of the crisis.

Their policy has been consistent since before the crisis broke out. The UAE’s strategic partnership with China and Russia was in place before the coronavirus pandemic. It has nothing to do with strategic repositioning against the backdrop of the waning influence of the US, but with widening the circle of international cooperation for the UAE economy.

Therefore, as the Emirati leadership moves toward Russia, it is proceeding from the legacy of respect and mutual appreciation expressed by President Putin at the reception of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in St. Petersburg. The role of the UAE, as well as Saudi Arabia, in this crisis is not primarily of its own interest.

While the goal is legitimate and has already been achieved, at least in terms of eliminating further chaos in the world and stabilizing the global energy and trade markets in which these two countries are major players. Rather, the goal is to defuse tensions in a crisis that is gradually worsening.

Diplomatic intervention requires not so much the great powers as smart and reasonable minds with a legacy of political and diplomatic experience and a recognition that qualifies them to put forward proposals, alternatives, and ways out that can help find solutions or at least calm the atmosphere and prevent further military escalation.

One dilemma of the Ukraine crisis is that the West is pushing to divide the world on the principle of “with or against.” This does not help to cool down the atmosphere, and does not guarantee the interests of the West either. An example of this is the decline of Western influence on the African continent in favor of Russia.

Russian influence has grown stronger over time for reasons we will not discuss here. But that is a reality that is not at all serving the West’s interest. We are all watching the US antagonizing a historic ally like Saudi Arabia following Democratic circles fabrication for purely electoral reasons, without considering the higher strategic interests for their country.

There is an urgent need for the West to reshuffle and re-sort its cards. Maintaining the pace of unpredictable political dynamics in relations with world countries, not just allies, will only hasten the collapse of Western influence. Any geopolitical space lost by the West will be wrested by its strategic rivals.

I believe that this is a game in which leaders do not appreciate well enough the value of existing international cooperation and partnership. They cannot read the changes that have taken place and continue to take place in the world order. They should deal with them reasonably so that their countries’ strategic interests could grow stronger and withstand the high winds of change.

Salem AlKetbiUAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate. This article was originally published by the London based Middle East On Line website.


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