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The New Cold War and its Effects on Our Region

The New Cold War and its Effects on Our Region

Sunday, 6 March, 2022 - 12:15
Amr Moussa
Amr Moussa is a former Arab League Secretary General and former Foreign Minister of Egypt

The current developments on the international scene reflect a cold war situation on its way to an escalation. It has long-term strategic dimensions, as well as intense manifestations and direct repercussions represented in the “special military operation” against Ukraine.

The operation is based on a political process that seeks to tear the country apart, change its political system, and stop its Western orientation, unless Kyiv succumbs to the demands of Russian national security and abandons its hopes, which Moscow believes include plans to besiege it, weaken it, and threaten its security and stability, by opening the doors of NATO and the European Union and achieve Western political and military expansion towards all of Eurasia.

The direct effects of the operation on Ukraine, the destruction of its cities, the migration of tens of thousands of its residents, and the human losses it has incurred, have paralyzed the country and curbed its productive capabilities in terms of industry, trade, agriculture, tourism, and others. Moreover, dealings in these sectors, which link Ukraine to many states and societies, including the Middle East and the Arab world, and the resulting economic and financial losses, require urgent efforts and alternatives that may not be easy to find.

We must also not forget the hundreds, rather thousands, of students and business owners (especially in industries and small and medium enterprises), who used to fill Ukraine’s universities, forums and markets and the process of transferring them to other destinations… That in addition to the effects of sanctions against Russia on the course of trade and investment in the developing world, including most of the Arab world.

Now we move to discuss another, no less important dimension. It pertains to the escalation of a comprehensive strategic confrontation between the whole West and Russia, reminiscent of the pre-wars era, when European politicians attempted to ease tensions by making concessions to the troublemaker, based on their own interests.

Perhaps Putin was intentionally pushing for this. His list of demands is long. The Russian government summarized it in a memorandum requesting a number of pledges and commitments related to NATO, Russian security, and the revival of agreements that were forged in the 1990s to arrange security relations after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Washington’s rejection of these demands increased Moscow’s concern.

It seems that the United States - and the West around it - is not about to repeat the appeasement policies led by British Prime Minister Chamberlain, prior to the outbreak of World War II.

It is well known, of course, that many pledges were made in the aforementioned agreements, which the West itself violated with regard to the inclusion of Russia's European neighbors in the NATO, and the annexation of most of them to the European Union.

Indeed, the three Baltic republics: Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which became members of NATO and the European Union, are not only close to or neighboring Russia, but some of them are intertwined with the Russian lands (Moscow is “silent” about it, just as the West is “silent” about the annexation of the Crimea).

This indicates that the Ukrainian file is not only related from the Russian point of view to its accession to Western alliances, but also to its interests and geopolitical, security, cultural, ethnic and religious dimensions.

Many political analysts, who are well-informed of Russian-American and Russian-European affairs, believe that America does not pay much attention to Russian national considerations. Rather, it considers that Russia “is nothing but Nigeria covered in snow, and therefore if things have grown in Russia’s head, then they must be awakened, or the opportunity has come to awaken them,” as one of the analysts say.

It is a major miscalculation that will lead to international complications with a wide negative impact. Russia is a major nuclear state with interests that go beyond its immediate neighborhood, and should not be underestimated. Some of the analysts say that what is happening now is “a conspiracy hatched by the West to trap and punish Putin, and isolate the Russia he heads in preparation for his overthrow.”

While the Russian logic, in which many see merit, (note that more than 50 countries abstained or objected to the recent General Assembly resolution on Ukraine) consider that Russian security is actually threatened by Atlantic expansion, the American logic is based on the fact that Russia is a large country indeed, but it is of the second degree, and has no right to propose, nor to request, security arrangements of a global strategic nature, which place restrictions on the movement of Western countries.

As for the Russian missile test in Cuba in 1962, which was less than 90 miles away from the US border and which Russia believes America should remember in order understand the current Russian concerns, the US response is reminiscent of late Colonel Gaddafi's statement: “Who are you to tell us what to do or not!”

Based on the above, the Russian presence in the Middle East (its actual presence in Syria and Libya, and its political relations with a number of Arab Gulf states, Turkey, Iran and Israel) will be subject to a review.

In fact, the United States and the Western alliance have coexisted with Russian presence and its Middle East policy, and sometimes considered it beneficial to the West, especially with the coordination that took place with the United States and Israel in Syria, the confrontation of terrorist organizations, and within the framework of the US arrangements for Pivot to Asia.

Is it time for the western alliance to turn a cold shoulder to the Russian presence and role in the Middle East? Does this not require additional Western coordination with Turkey? And perhaps an Israeli role in this regional framework?

Does this require expediting the conclusion of some understandings with Iran? I say this while ruling out the possibility of any understanding being reached with any Arab party on this strategic level, except perhaps for some pressure - not understandings - aimed at dwarfing any Arab-Russian cooperation relations.

Then, we have to expect some change in the Russian situation in the Mediterranean that directly affects its naval and air bases in Syria, as well as its presence in Libya.

This also opens the door to assessing what might happen to the Russian presence in the West African Sahel and Sahara region, which is directly adjacent to the countries of the Maghreb.

This is only part of what to be expected, yet it is not simple, given Putin’s determination and capabilities that could confuse or harm the Western plans.

Finally, I would like to focus on the following points:

The first concerns the biggest loser so far from the developments: the United Nations, the international system and the principles of international law that have been and are openly challenged by all sides.

The current turmoil in the role of the Security Council, and the inability to maintain international peace and security (the two superpowers are permanent members of the Security Council, enjoy the veto right, and are accused - or mutually accused - of violating the international order, and of threatening international peace and security). So what will be the fate of the small states, including ours? And how will they solve their problems and face threats to their sovereignty and independence?

Secondly, if the United Nations and the current international system in general are the first losers from the course of the events in Ukraine, then the West is the other loser.

In fact, if the international system that the West has established under the leadership of the United States in 1945 collapses, the influence of Western powers may fall with it, or weaken in the face of resistance that sees that this system involves bias, harmful sanctions and double standards, in addition to a failure to establish a new consensus that would be based on international pluralism and globalization, which are now witnessing a clear regression.

However, this does not negate that the West - so far and in the short and perhaps medium term - has achieved apparent gains, namely returning to unity, affirming the leadership of the United States, and abandoning the policies of reluctance and turmoil that have made America and the West lose a great deal of credibility and respect.

The third loss is the return of the racist and daring rhetoric; rather, the foolishness revealed by Western media and policy statements, about the preference of the white refugee with blue eyes over any other refugee from developing countries. It is possible to expect other similar policies that will harm the interests of the developing world.

The fourth loss is embodied in the re-emergence of the expression: “You are either with us or against us”, which is reminiscent of the words of John Foster Dulles, the former US Secretary of State, who said that neutrality was “immoral.”

Thus, is neutrality and the abstention to vote by some countries in favor of the resolution submitted by Western countries to the General Assembly, a reason to punish them as well?

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