By: CDR Hubert MROZ, POL Navy, CSAG CCJ5
5 August 2022
In many ways, the world will no longer be the same as it was before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Paradoxically, the region where the effects of the war are most felt and capable of bringing about the greatest changes is not Europe, but the Middle East (ME). Regarding political significance – there are many indications that Russia will emerge weakened from this conflict. This means, among other things, that Russia will be less and less able to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad, in particular due to a reduced number of forces of the Russian Federation deployed to Syrian territory. Not surprisingly, the strategic fuels sector is affected. In conformity with the packages of sanctions imposed on Russia, some Western countries are no longer receiving supplies from Russia.
Historically, the manipulation of oil production and oil prices have been used as a kind of weapon, including to cool down aggressive actions of the USSR and later Russia as well. The breach between the US and Saudi Arabia diplomacy has made the use of the “oil war” more complicated this time. Iran suddenly turns out to be an alternative for energy resources from Russia as an oil supplier. The ongoing war has disrupted the recovery of economies from the pandemic-induced slowdown. This will translate even more into already high inflation and may consequently lead to social dissatisfaction. Rising food prices can already be observed in the AOR. Soaring bread prices have led to protests in Iran, where shops have been set on fire and security forces have arrested “provocateurs.” It follows a cut in government subsidies for imported wheat that caused price rises as high as three hundred percent for many flour-based foods.
- The following article, written in the fourth month of the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, is an attempt to assess some implications and consequences of Russian aggression for the ME and the CASA region, and more yet to come.
- The Russian war is exacerbating food insecurity. Disruptions in exports from Ukraine and Russia are likely to exacerbate the food security problems already faced by many countries (including some ME and CASA countries).
- Food problems can be a trigger for internal dissatisfaction in the region (an analogy to the Arab Spring).
- The historic manipulation of oil prices was the most effective sanction against the USSR and its successor – Russia. The recent cold diplomacy between the US and Saudi Arabia has complicated matters.
- Iran could benefit from sanctions imposed on Russia. However, Tehran has so far put ideology above self-interest.
- Despite its democratic system and strong ties to Europe and the US, Israel is signaling that it is primarily a Middle Eastern state and is moving closer to other countries in the region where Russia once played an important role.
- The views of the West and the Middle East on the Russian war are diametrically different.
- Russia’s war exhaustion may free Central Asia from Russian domination, but there is a likelihood that the CA states (CAS) will be immediately pushed into a new dependency – China.
- Turkey and China are benefiting from Russia’s weakening. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Russia is being instrumentalized by China in their rivalry with the US.
- The united West poses a strong warning signal for China.
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The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.