Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


Can the Emirates Divorce Themselves of Putin?

Much like Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, the war in Ukraine is now another “frozen conflict” derived from the fall of the Soviet Union.

What the Kremlin calls its “near abroad,” is now an escalating proxy war between two nuclear superpowers.

Dangerous stuff we have here.

As global diplomats look for a path forward to peace, Kyiv’s Western allies should help Ukrainian forces regain as much territory as possible to force some kind of peace.

The war has become a high-tech contest. Both sides are rapidly innovating, perfecting drone, surveillance, and strike technology to levels not dreamed of before the war began in February 2022.

Vast numbers of troops are being killed on the battlefield as advanced, but plentiful drones spot targets, and artillery fire is immediately deployed. According to some estimates, since August, Ukraine has lost nearly 70,000 soldiers with another 100,000 to 120,000 wounded.

Ukraine has begun work on a cemetery near its capital that can hold 500,000 bodies. Commercials are now being run on social media showing the benefits of “recycling” Ukrainian dead to help the environment, which brings a whole new meaning to “army green.”

The world is dealing with incredibly dangerous advances in the art of war.

In fact, technological prowess, combined with asymmetric tactics, will likely win this conflict for one side or the other. Therefore, it is critical for the West to keep its technology, which is one of its strengths, out of the hands of the Kremlin.

Refusing to export dual-use technologies to Russia is one very effective way Western-aligned nations can support the Ukrainian armed forces in their fight. Washington and Brussels have recently made attempts to accomplish this in the Middle East.

In an effort to prevent computer chips, electronic components, and other dual-use products, which have both civilian and military purposes, from falling into the hands of Russia, European and American officials recently visited the UAE, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The UAE, along with most other non-group-of-seven countries, has declined to join in sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe, but has said it does not want its country to be used as a hub to help Russia evade sanctions by transshipping goods.

However, Washington is concerned that the Emirates are doing just that – as U.S. pressure on nations in Russia’s near abroad forces the Kremlin to look elsewhere.

Turkey, Kazakhstan, and China are just a few of the outlying nations that have drawn the wrath of Washington. The U.S. does not have leverage on China, but other central Asian countries can be persuaded for a price.

With the world alignment changing in front of Washington’s eyes, as evidenced by the UAE joining the BRICS alliance recently at its summit in South Africa, Washington’s ability to dictate to others is being impacted.

This has led to a significant increase in trade between the UAE and Russia, rising 68% to $9 billion in 2022, declared Denis Manturov, Russia’s Minister of Trade and Industry, at the international defense exhibition IDEX 2023 in Abu Dhabi in February.

The UAE exported 15 times more microchips to Russia in 2022 than the previous year.

In October 2022, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s president, paid a visit to Moscow, but kept in touch with American officials both before and after the visit. Deeply connected to the United States, the UAE has invested tens of billions of dollars through its sovereign wealth funds. The U.S. and the UAE also cooperate on counter-terrorism efforts.

In addition, the UAE benefits greatly from Russian nationals moving ill-gotten funds to its offshore financial jurisdiction in order to escape sanctions, and the consequences of stealing money from the public purse, which is a national pastime inside the Russian Federation.

In fact, the UAE was placed on a 23-country “grey list” last year by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failing to meet the organization’s standards in combating sanctions evasion, terror financing, and money laundering. The move was a blow to the UAE, which has positioned itself as the Middle East’s top business and commercial hub, writes the Middle East Eye.

The Emirates seems to be turning a blind eye to this practice and needs to do more with international anti-money laundering institutions.

Obviously, nations like the UAE are trying to have it both ways. The winds of global change are in the air, and they likely want to keep a foot in both East and West camps, to remain flexible on the geopolitical stage.

The monarch would do well not to forget their deep security and economic ties with the United States and Europe and stop re-exporting military technologies to help Russia win the war.