The reception Russian President Vladimir Putin received for his visit with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was nothing short of exquisite. The Russian president’s arrival was met with ceremonies no U.S. president ever received. The spectacle in Abu Dhabi rivalled even that of Pope Francis in November. The events culminated at the imposing Qasr Al Watan Palace, where both leaders seemed dwarfed by the extravagance of one of the world’s finest landmarks of art and culture in the world. The welcoming must-have been puzzling for Americans, assured that the “whole” world is shunning Putin and Russia.
On the agenda for the meetings was the status of multifaceted Russia-UAE cooperation, as well as the prospects for future collaboration. The Russian and UAE leaders also discussed the current situation in the Middle East in the shadow of the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis. During his meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Mr. Putin noted an ”unprecedentedly high level” of relations between his country and the UAE.
As I type this, Abu Dhabi is Moscow’s leading trading partner in the Arab world, with trade turnover increasing by more than 67% last year. For those unfamiliar, some weeks ago, Russian nuclear agency Rosatom announced having set up a joint venture with Dubai’s DP World to develop container shipping through the Arctic. The deal with one of the world’s top port operators is the clearest sign so far of Moscow’s ability to attract significant international partners to build the Northern Sea Route Putin’s administration has keyed on for some years now.
Meanwhile, in October, U.S., British and European Union officials sent a warning to the United Arab Emirates to halt shipments of goods to Russia that could help Moscow in its war against Ukraine. This threatening signal from the Western alliance symbolises U.S. policy since the Biden administration took the White House. Not even former President Barack Obama’s arrogance seems equal to the current leadership of the hegemony. And the petulance has not gone unnoticed.
It should be noted here that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will likely join the BRICS economic and geopolitical bloc currently comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The purpose of President Putin’s trip to the UAE and the point of the majestic welcome is that the UAE has an economic goal to double its GDP to over $800 billion by the end of 2023. The country must fast-track bilateral trade deals and partnerships by aligning with the BRICS to achieve this. At the top of Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s strategy is solidifying economic relationships with China and India and gaining access to other markets like Russia and Brazil.
After the UAE visit, President Putin was welcomed to Al-Yamamah Palace to meet with the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. The purpose of the visit was similar to the UAE meetup, except that the Saudis have seemed less enthusiastic about becoming a member of BRICS and turning on its ironclad ties to the United States. However, most analysts believe that the kingdom’s ties with the US have already weakened on several fronts. Saudi Arabia’s entering the BRICS group would be another sign of key nations seeking a multipolar world. The Saudis are the leader in the Middle East region, but the country aims to become an international heavyweight by establishing deeper ties with China and Russia.
A couple of items of interest need to get more widespread press. First, the Saudi Arabia and UAE visits were immediately followed by talks in Moscow between Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Also, only energy magazines want to report that The OPEC+ alliance has committed to slashing more than 2 million barrels of production through the first quarter of 2024. Russia is deepening its export reduction from 300,000 b/d to 500,000 barrels per day. Factoring in Iran, President Putin is setting himself up as a mediator and alliance builder. If Iran and the Saudis can bury the hatchet, the elites in the West will soon be ready to fall on their swords. Rigging Argentina to dump the BRICS will not be enough to quell the rising tide from the East.
A last note. Seeing UAE jets paint the skies over Qasr Al Watan Palace with a Russian flag is a strange irony. Especially given the Western media’s portrait of Putin holed up in the Kremlin, alone, seated at a 20-foot-long table. The recluse is on the loose, I guess.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.