The Middle East and Security Crisis in Europe

Every crisis carries with it an opportunity for a solution. This current US crisis in managing the world we live in today, with the chaos it has generated in Europe and the Middle East, has presented a clear opportunity. This opportunity has manifested in the distancing of all the main forces from US dominance and the emergence of a new trend to reshape their regional system in a more independent and balanced way, writes Amal Abu Zeid, Lebanese presidential adviser, especially for the 12th Middle East conference of the Valdai Discussion Club.

When Francis Fukuyama spoke thirty years ago, on behalf of the political mind of the US Administration, about "The End of History", he did not just mean a peaceful and rational discussion between two philosophical approaches.

On the global level, the successive events were affirming, every day, that what was meant was the victory of one camp over another and the complete domination of this camp over the world geopolitically, economically, militarily, culturally, and technologically. At that time, this scene was described by the White House as the New World Order. This system was, in idea and reality, an imperial system, and Fukuyama's vision of it hearkened back to Napoleon's time after the Battle of Jena.

However, problems arose when the master of this New World Order started to act in a way that was inconsistent with its new global responsibility.

For nearly a quarter century, there has been a lack of respect of the principles that would guarantee it international legitimacy, an explicit lack of commitment to the frameworks of its institutions, and a lack of respect for the principles of state policy and territorial integrity.

This has led to wars, an abuse of international legitimacy, and the targeting of countries, their unity, and the integrity of their lands and people.

This political and military behaviour was similarly orchestrated at the economic, developmental, and commercial levels worldwide, perpetuating a domineering approach, influence on global policymaking, and the attempt to put the Earth’s wealth in the grip of one party, which exacerbated the development gap between regions, countries, and continents and fuelled feelings of deprivation and injustice among the majority of the people on Earth.

After twenty years of those policies in the Middle East, the storm of the so-called "Arab Spring" broke out in several places simultaneously and via strange coincidences. However, this storm turned out to be an attempt to overthrow most of the existing governments and replace every country with a new regime based on some religious legitimacy. In his famous speech at Cairo University in 2009 and later on via the “Obama Doctrine”, US President Barack Obama was too frank when addressing the people of the Middle East. However, the most surprising coincidence was the presidential order in August 2010, which spoke openly about changing the scene in the Middle East several months before the outbreak of the first Arab Spring storm in Tunisia in December 2010.

Meanwhile, US policymakers were focusing on a clear objective: Reshaping a new global domination system by containing China. Thus, the European countries, Russia, and nations stretching from Turkey to Southeast Asia as well as the countries bordering the China Sea, were to be under US control, so that Washington could build the Great American Wall and surround the Chinese dragon to tame and subjugate it... and everything else would be details.

Facing this reality, and after being made aware of the motives of US policy, especially with regard to what was prepared against it, starting with Ukraine, Russia began working with its partners and allies towards the formation of a New World order to break the unilateral leadership and push towards a multipolar world.

The on-going military developments in Ukraine are clear evidence of the transition to a different international equation that leads to a reorganization of trade relations and international alliances and to the establishment of new economic and financial policies and axes that would reach a balance of power, regionally and internationally, taking into account the legitimate interests of all players on the international scene and creating new rules for resolving international conflicts and disputes.

The current crisis in Ukraine has seen the entire Western Camp ushering in a New World Order, where the world’s conditions, path, and political map have changed according to new foundations and principles.

We are on the brink of a multipolar world in which China, Russia, and the countries of the Global South stand out.

Thus, President Putin has put an end to an entire phase extending from the Helsinki Accords in 1975 to the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the on-going conflict in Ukraine that started in 2022, by shattering the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe which sets the conditions for post-Cold War peace.

President Vladimir Putin proved his presence on the international scene amidst the rise of Chinese power and US dominance on the current scene, knowing that this New World has distinguishing features, the most important of which are:

1: Russia's move to the East. Ten years ago, after the annexation of Crimea, Russia’s move became clearer in terms of economical and geopolitical dimensions, which put an end, at least at that time, to the expansion of Western alliances, such as NATO, in areas that Russia considers vital to its national security and accompanies Russia's move to the East. Russia's eastward move and China's westward move towards Europe through the "Belt and Road Initiative" (BRI) were accompanied by a more significant change in the entire system of international relations: the end of the 500-year dominance of the West, including the end of the wild liberal system that has dominated over the past 70 years.

2: Many events will be shaping the new world. We may witness the emergence of Greater Eurasia, a concept brought to light in Russia which has included, since the beginning, Europe or a part of it geographically, which may make Eurasia the centre of economy, politics, and culture, as was the case with Europe during the past five centuries.

3: The “Pivot to the East” strategy adopted by Moscow in response to the “unprecedented Western restrictions and attempts to isolate it" has led to a Russian-Chinese strategic partnership instead of an "alliance" model. This partnership contributes to stabilizing relations and gives them full space of cooperation without requiring any major changes to their policy.

4: The Russian presence in the Middle East, specifically since 2015 in Syria, has contributed to increasing its international influence in the region and developing its presence, role, and relations, especially with the Gulf States, where a "strategic" dialogue and initiative were launched to ensure security in the Gulf. In addition to the American-Iranian and Saudi-Iranian confrontation, there is Iranian-Israeli hostility, the Sunni-Shia conflict, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Russia remains the only player capable of addressing everyone and pushing for a solution to regional conflicts. In fact, there is a new Russian approach in the Middle East aimed at securing its economic growth at an accelerated pace, while being aware of the benefits of reactivating and developing historical relations with a number of countries in the region, and the need to employ all its capabilities to support its movements and achieve its goals. The most important and most prominent of these are summit diplomacy and mediation, which differ in their effectiveness from one issue to another.

Syria is the most vulnerable country in the region, and continues to witness the repercussions of its civil war, in terms of its security, economy and food security. As the country is one of the arenas for the upcoming confrontation, Syria’s leadership has been targeted by those seeking to tighten the screws on Russia itself. Thus, in the framework of the escalating conflict with Russia, the US and its allies might resort to escalating hostility in Syria or imposing more economic sanctions on Damascus to achieve two goals: to drain Moscow militarily on a front other than the Ukrainian front, and punish Syria for its supportive position on the Russian operation. 

5: It seemed clear that the opportunity to revive the nuclear agreement in 2021 was side-lined in 2022 due to the war and its impact on two issues: the first is related to the change in Iran’s position, as it is no longer in a hurry after the geopolitical and economic facts changed as a result of the Ukraine war. In fact, Iran is selling its oil and advancing its nuclear programme, while the ability of the US and Western countries to use economic weapons is declining. The second issue is related to the emerging and worsening crisis between Iran and the US-European alliance, which seeks to punish Iran for supporting Russia in the war, and for its contribution to strengthening the eastern axis and building the New World Order by rioting against the US and its policies in the region.

6: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is another beneficiary of the current Ukrainian events and the international equation it has established. Bin Salman knew how to take advantage of the war and the global geopolitical and economic changes it brought and how to turn it into an opportunity to show off the importance, status, and personality of Saudi Arabia, and to force the United States to consider Saudi Arabia's political and economic interests after US policy was characterized by confusion, hesitation and lack of clarity.

Bin Salman believes that the war in Ukraine is an opportunity that should not be missed to correct his country’s path. Motivated by strategic precaution, bin Salman has been weaving, for some time, a serious shift towards distributing partnerships with China, Russia, and India, considering that the required international alignment is a great entitlement that must be turned into an opportunity and a great price. In his opinion, it is unfair to rush freely toward the West, especially since oil is still an essential value in commercial and political equations. 

After one year of battles in Ukraine, Europe finds it difficult to stay the course as it is suffering from economic and commercial deflation, added to an inflationary wave resulting from the rise in energy and food prices. It has been unable to take any positive step towards Russia, which has led to a drop in Euro and pound Sterling rates, as well as the closure of companies and investment migration.

Europe must decide whether it wants to play an active role in building a new partnership, or whether this partnership will be built without it, and then against it, without its interests being considered.

And by extension, Europe must stop slipping further into civilizational crisis and abandon attempts to unite against imaginary enemies, such as Russia or China.

In 1991, the era of the Cold War, which had begun after the end of World War II, came to an end. However, there are clear signs about the possibility of a new phase starting, and that the next world order will be based on what is happening in Ukraine. The year 2022 can be seen as the beginning of a new chapter and a timeline separating two phases and two worlds.

Every crisis carries with it an opportunity for a solution. This current US crisis in managing the world we live in today, with the chaos it has generated in Europe and the Middle East, has presented a clear opportunity. This opportunity has manifested in the distancing of all the main forces from US dominance and the emergence of a new trend to reshape their regional system in a more independent and balanced way.

Similarly, we are witnessing this today in Turkish-American relations and even Saudi-American relations, leading to a great conflict between Washington, Tehran, and Moscow. A new system must be based on clear foundations, the most important of which is to restore the importance of the concept of stability in this vital region of the world, and the prioritisation of adopting correct development policies that invest the wealth of this region for the benefit of its societies and peoples. This requires the establishment of a framework for cooperation between these countries which will allow them to free themselves from dominance, influence, and interference.

Finally, ten years ago, Washington seemed to tell our world, which extends from both sides of the Mediterranean to Europe and the Middle East: you are a bridge whose sole function is to reach China, and you have no other function or value.

However, this world is trying to send a message to Washington: that we are the heart of the world, in its sources of energy, its trade corridors, the movement of its people, its population, and migration. Once our heart stops beating, our limbs will not remain alive.

This is the core of the conflict today... and on its outcome depends the fate of the whole world for many decades to come.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.