Photo’s Source: Wavy.com, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahya
During the tour of the Gulf countries, on December 6, 2023, Russian President Putin arrived in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi and held talks with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahya. This was the second meeting between the leaders of Russia and the UAE in 2023, the last one being at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June 2023. Moreover, this was part of Putin’s first visit to the region since 2019’s coronavirus pandemic.
According to Russia’s TASS news agency, during the meeting, the two sides mainly discussed economic interaction and cooperation, the situation in the Middle East and the post-war development of the Gaza Strip, as well as the Ukrainian issue.
The article below is meant to analyse the reason for the meeting and the impact of it, first, focusing on the purpose of the diplomatic strategies of both Russia and the UAE, as it cannot be ignored that this visit was part of the two countries’ diplomatic strategies, and, then, the common interests of the two actors, while finally predicting the impact of the meeting on the regional and global situation.
The Purpose of Russia’s Cooperative Diplomatic Strategy
Besides the defence cooperation, the most important areas of Russia’s cooperation with the Middle East countries, especially the UAE, are energy cooperation and trade and investment cooperation.
In terms of energy cooperation, as one of the world’s most important energy exporters, being able to reach an agreement with the Middle East’s oil producers could greatly enhance Russia’s influence on the current situation. In 2016, Russia joined OPEC+, when it entered a new phase of its Middle East cooperation strategy. Joint actions between Russia and other OPEC members, including the UAE, have not only led to more opportunities for communication between the two sides, like the UAE president’s travel to Russia to meet Putin in October 2022 (The National, 2022), but have also led to the acceptance of Russia’s identity within the OPEC organization. This identification created a spill over benefit, leading to an understanding view of Russia’s actions under the international context.
Also, in terms of economic and trade cooperation, Russia has been developing economic ties with Middle East countries, including the UAE. In 2019, the UAE’s trade with Russia was $1.7 billion, while in 2022, trade between the two actors soared to $9 billion. in addition, in 2018, the UAE and Russia signed a “Declaration of Strategic Partnership” to cooperate across politics, security, economy and culture (Gulf News, 2018).
The Purpose of the UAE’s Diverse Diplomatic Strategy
In recent years, the UAE is displaying a more active diplomatic stance in regional and international affairs. This diplomatic stance has emerged due to the demand for diversification of the domestic economy.
In response to the pressure from the world and region situation, the UAE has been improving its economic structure. Thus, in 2021 the UAE’s non-oil component contributed 72.3% of its GDP and it is a large part of the UAE’s overall GDP structure. As a result, in 2022, the country was in serious conflict with OPEC members over production increases, as it was believed it has too much idle capacity for oil. In this context, the UAE had to improve it economic structure to avoid the possible adverse effects of the OPEC rules on its economy in the future.
Common Interests of Russia and the UAE
There are several common interests of the two countries.
The first is the stabilization of the regional political structure, as it directly affects the development of both countries. Some scholars believe that the reason for the Russia-Ukraine War stem from NATO’s expansion, which led to Russia’s insecurity feeling (Kerrane, Evan, 2020). As for the UAE and other Gulf states, the outbreak of the Israeli-Hamas conflict in 2023 completely undermined the process of normalization of bilateral relations with Israel.
The second point is the acquirement of an independent status in the current regional and international order. In March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes, further squeezing Russia’ diplomatic space (ICC, 2023). The UAE, on the other hand, is looking to gain more influence within the Gulf states to avoid excessive constraints on its economic development under the rules of the OPEC, thus appealing to Russia’s influence in the area.
The Impact on the Regional and World Situation
Therefore, the accomplishment and maintenance of friendly relations between the two countries will inevitably affect the distribution of power in the world. In the short term, this distribution tends to make the globe more stable as they only seek more regional solutions to their problems. Through the cooperation with Russia, the UAE could repair relations with other OPEC members, including Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, the consolidation of relations between the two countries will also promote multilateralism in trade. Both countries seek to increase their trading partners rather than the other way around. In 2023, many MENA countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, were invited to formally become members of BRICS. Also, during the meeting with UAE president on December 6th, Putin also invited him to attend the 16th meeting of BRICS leaders in Kazan, Russia, in 2024.
As a result, the current meeting between Russia and the UAE reflected their common interests in response to external forces. Although the two sides took the initiative to hold this meeting, they were passive in their respective political environments. Under these conditions, while the consolidation of friendly relations between the two countries does have an impact on the overall international situation, in the short term, it contributes to the stabilization of the international environment and the development of trade multilateralism.
Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
About the author:
Mr. Mingxuan Huang is student at the Yunnan University, China. He is intern at MEPEI.