Vladimir Putin’s High-stakes Middle East Diplomacy: A Clear Message To the West

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HANDOUT - 15 April 2021, Russia, Novo-Ogaryovo: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the State Council Presidium and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, held via video conference, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence. Photo: -/Kremlin/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full
HANDOUT - 15 April 2021, Russia, Novo-Ogaryovo: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the State Council Presidium and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, held via video conference, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence. Photo: -/Kremlin/dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unexpected one-day flurry of diplomatic activity in the Middle East on 6 December 2023 has sent clear signals to the West. As Putin made his rare visits to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, the changing power dynamics and the intricate diplomacy game which Russia so carefully manoeuvres were again in the spotlight. Despite facing escalating pressure from Western nations, it is apparent that Russia retains its influence among friends and allies.

Putin’s trip, starting in the UAE and climaxing in Saudi Arabia, carried a potent symbolism. On this short, but poignant diplomatic journey, Putin engaged with two of the most influential countries in the Middle East, marking his first international foray since the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him in March. Between climate discussions at COP28 and the rising tension of the Israel-Hamas war, Putin’s diplomatic venture demonstrates his ability to navigate the international landscape, even with the Ukraine war indictment looming.

Putin’s warm reception by UAE’s President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan reiterated the strength of the ties between Russia and the UAE. The moment was emphasized as Russian jets flanked by fighter escorts painted the sky in the colours of the Russian flag, reflecting Russia’s robust influence in the region. Putin’s tête-à-tête with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud marked their first in-person exchange since 2019.

This diplomatic show of power comes at a time when Moscow is facing increasing isolation from the West. Putin’s swift visit to the region can be viewed as a vehement refutation of the West’s attempts to sideline Russia in the international arena, particularly by using sanctions linked to the Ukraine conflict. It highlights his determination to develop and retain ties with his regional allies, proving Russia’s unique ability to remain engaged even in times of international distress.

Putin also posed as a potential mediator in the Israel-Hamas conflict demonstrating the potential for Russia to take a more inclusive position in the Middle East as US diplomacy faces challenges. This proposition comes at an interesting time as relations between Middle East powerhouses and their conventional Western allies face unprecedented stress due to the unpredictable geopolitical shifts.

In conclusion, Putin’s unanticipated journey to the Middle East is not just a series of state visits. It is a strategic demonstration of Russia’s continual influence and diplomatic prowess in the region, serving as a blunt message to the Western powers – Russia remains resilient and relevant, effectively marking its territory on the global stage. With these strategies, Russia is attempting to carve its spot in the narrative of a rapidly changing world order, hinting at the prospect of a new geopolitical power dynamic on the horizon. In the face of these developments, the West’s response and counteractions will undeniably shape the future of international diplomacy. Nonetheless, Putin’s Middle East trip reveals Russia’s unwavering role as a pivotal player in international sphere, even as it faces mounting problems at home and abroad. Russia’s presence in the Middle East is not new. Russia has been a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011, and has maintained a military presence in Syria since 2015. However, Putin’s visit to Egypt and Saudi Arabia marks a significant shift in Russia’s foreign policy objectives. By increasing its presence in the region, Russia is trying to establish itself as an indispensable player on the global stage – one that cannot be ignored or pushed aside by other major powers.

 

Author: Abdul Rafay Afzal

Column Name: Through My Lens

Email: rafayafzal555@gmail.com

Instagram: @arafzal555

Bio: Author is from Lahore, Pakistan currently a law student at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. He writes perceptive columns on geopolitics, international relations, and legal affairs etc. in more than 10 countries providing unique insights into the global landscape in different Pakistani and International Newspapers and Media outlets in English & Urdu languages.

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