An Emirati Studies Center said that the ruling regime in the UAE is strengthening the military presence of Russia in a number of Arab countries to serve Abu Dhabi’s plots to expand and gain influence regionally.
The Emirates Center for Studies and Media (EMASC) reviewed papers for regional and international studies centers to talk about the convergence of the UAE’s ambitions in the region with Russia’s plans.
EMASC stressed that this increases the seriousness of the situation in the Arabian Peninsula and the Arab region by entering into an international conflict that brings the poles (the United States and Russia) back to confrontation in countries other than Syria.
The American neglecting of the region is driving Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy to increase the Russian presence in the region, as the UAE and Russia have enjoyed a good relationship that has grown over the past six years, to the point of signing a security and political coordination treaties in the region in 2018.
This was indicated by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a TV interview with Arab satellite channels in October 2019, speaking about that treaty and the strategic relationship.
Putin stressed that his country sees in the UAE “one of our closest and promising partners. The signing of this document was not coincidental, as this demonstrated the quality and nature of the relations between the UAE and the Russian Federation.
In March 2020, relations showed tension with Saudi Arabia initiating an “oil price war” to force Russia to abide by a previous agreement setting out production volumes. The UAE announced joining Saudi Arabia by raising its crude oil production.
Eurasia Group analysts believe that the price war between Riyadh and Moscow is likely to continue throughout 2020, and may last for another year. However, this will not necessarily reflect the relationship of the UAE with Russia, especially the set of common files in the region, and may extend to new files.
Nature of relationship
With its intervention in 2015 in the Syrian civil war, Russia returned to entering the Middle East for the first time since the end of the Cold War – in an amazing way.
On the other side, the United States began to leave the region in favor of Russian influence. While much has been written about the motives for Russia’s return in the region, the focus has not been on the motives of Arab leaders seeking closer ties with Russia, including the UAE. At some point, they might consider reorganizing a strategy away from the United States.
Unlike the United States, which presents itself as the protector of liberties, Moscow supports dictatorships and considers them a refuge to protect security, which is also an Emirati vision shared with the Russians.
Although Arab leaders will not quickly get into the Russian political orbit, Abu Dhabi has already begun, in exchange for it realizing its ambitions to become an effective “regional power” in the region.
During the past three years, Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, visited Moscow four times (2016-2019). At the end of 2018 , the year in which the strategic treaty was signed, the UAE has begun returning to Syria, with the reopening of its embassy after its closure (since 2012).
Russia recently became involved in the Libyan war in favor of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar, the UAE’s main ally.
Collision in Libya
Last week, Foreign Policy magazine focused on this point regarding “Libya” and that American, and Western, neglecting of the region made countries like the UAE more aggressive in doing what they like in Libya.
The UAE is the country most seeking to establish its presence in Libya, and it also caused Turkey to enter this war. The two countries support two different parties. This increases the war ferociously and leaves the country very far from any nearby peace agreement.
The Haftar forces loyal to the Emirates have not yet been able to achieve the goal of capturing Tripoli, the capital, and toppling the government of national reconciliation backed by Turkey. Where the forces of the Government of National Accord responded aggressively and valiantly to the attack that started the last attack more than before, so it failed to penetrate the city center of Tripoli. Moreover, Haftar’s campaign, while destructive, faces obstacles in the form of a significant amount of strategic and tactical inefficiency.
Given the UAE’s keenness to compensate for the weakness of the “Haftar forces” on the ground, more than 900 air strikes were launched in the greater Tripoli area last year, using Chinese drone fighters and, at times, French-made combat aircraft.
At the beginning of this year, reports indicate the intervention of the group of Russian mercenaries, who follow the semi-official “Kremlin”. In contrast to the Emirati intervention, the Russian intervention in Libya is much more mercurial.