Although the war in Syria and Libya has lasted for some 12 years, it remains confined to the borders of these two countries. Meanwhile, although some regard the Russian-Ukrainian war as a distant event in its location and impact, it has a greater influence on us than our own regional Arab conflicts. The Ukrainian war was a crisis at its start. It might last for years to come and expand geographically as the complicated disputes between the superpowers involved in it worsen.
The Ukrainian war has hiked oil prices from $40 to $100+ per barrel, doubled the gas price three times, and threatened to deprive half of the world’s population of their daily bread. Politically, the war led to reconsiderations and shifts in international dealings that manifested in a change in US stance on Iran, making it retract from the nuclear deal with Teheran and persuading Washington to return to Saudi Arabia, which is the world’s largest oil exporter.
Due to the Ukrainian war, Russia is pulling out its troops from Syria. The latter might become an Iranian banana republic – with all the implications of this shift in terms of new Arab-Israeli regional defensive politics. Furthermore, the Ukrainian crisis has revived the role of chemical and bacterial weapons and raised debate on the limits and use of nuclear weapons.
Such are the amplifications of the ongoing war between the Russian and the Western axes on Ukrainian territory, the crisis escalates. Although geographically distant, the Ukrainian war is also affecting the Arab region, spiking oil prices and increasing some national incomes for some countries while doubling the debts of some others.
At any rate, the largest impact of the war remains prevalent in Europe, which contains its battlefields. The continent is going through an unprecedented stage that forced it to reconsider its defensive policies and strategic relations. Hence, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine made Berlin reconsiderits national security constants, adding that the Germans decided to reduce their energy dependency on Russia.
Besides, Berlin now favors the Baltic Nations’ accession to NATO. Until last February, such a shift in the German position on Russia was out of the question, as Germany used to regard the fall of both the Berlin Wall and the former German Democratic Republic three decades ago as a sign of the end of the fear of Russia.
The Germans were more convicted of the concept of reconciliation with Russia and betting on economic ties with Moscow that would ensure Europe’s security, unlike the US, which continued to regard Russia as an unaltered source of threat, despite the fall of the communist regime with its expansionist ambitions.
There is a famous photo of former US President Donald Trump surrounded by European leaders, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who were urging him during consultations on the role of NATO, and that photo speaks volumes. The US warned the EU and Germany against a second Russian gas pipeline to Europe. Washington maintained that dependence on it should jeopardize both Europe and NATO.
The US’s fears have become a reality, as Russia has suspended its gas supplies before its invasion of Ukraine, turning its gas into a key weapon in the war. Unwillingly, Europe funds Russian military operations in Ukraine by buying gas from Moscow.
It must be taken into account that this crisis represents a conflict between two global powers. Everything indicates that the conflict will last longer and get more complicated, especially as both sides are adamant about their positions. Thus, this week, Moscow reiterated its tough position, announcing that the war will continue until achieving Russian national security-bound objectives, which indicates that the crisis will last for years.
The current situation is reminiscent of the Cold War, when each country was held accountable by this or that superpower for siding with the opposite. Each side is exerting tremendous effort focused on having the countries of the Arab region adopt clear positions regarding their alignments. It will bear a high political, economic, and security price for each Arab country, regardless of which side it will support.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.