As Putin’s war on Ukraine continues to take the lives of Russians and Ukrainians, expose looming geopolitical divides, and roil oil markets and global economies wracked with inflation, diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis seem few and far between.
President Biden’s steady if weak leadership in support of Ukraine’s victory in the war of Russian aggression seems no match for Putin’s appetite for destruction, deterrence of stronger Western action in support of Ukraine in the form of heavier weapons to strengthen its military gains or threats of nuclear escalation. French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz — one the European duo with the closest ties to the Russian autocrat — haven’t spoken to Putin in months.
China’s Xi says his nation support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and pledges the brotherly ties between the two anti-Western powers are closer than ever. Even Putin himself has retreated into isolation, refusing to sit near even his own advisors for fear of catching covid, or putting himself within reach of an unexpected assassination attempt from someone eligible to get within reach.
So it was remarkable this week to see MBZ, President of the United Arab Emirates, step into the role of global ambassador, taking on the unenviable task of defending global stability, and tamping down the more urgent threats by the unpredictable Russian strongman to deploy battlefield nuclear weapons in an escalation of military conflict not seen since World War II.
Given the Emirate’s role as an American ally, which privately opposed recent OPEC+ production cuts and has in the past two years forged historic ties with regional superpower Israel, and its four decades of diplomatic relations with Moscow, the further emergence of MBZ as a force in global diplomacy underscores the particular and useful diplomatic abilities of UAE and its leadership.
While maintaining a neutral stance on the crisis, the UAE voted at the UN last month to condemn the Russian invasion as “illegal,” the Emirates also played a vital role in the complicated prisoner release between Ukraine and Russia last month, which also saw several Western captives freed by the Putin regime.
That feat of complex diplomacy is in addition to the UAE’s role in helping — along with another regional player — the release from Iran of American citizen Baaker Nemazi, the 71-year old former UN official and father of an American kidnapped by Tehran while seeking the release of his own son, who remains captive in the Islamic Republic. It was a diplomatic effort that drew strong praise of US Secretary of State Tony Bliken, who said “we appreciate all those who contributed to his release, especially the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.”
It is no wonder then that the UAE has stepped up and bracingly acted to attempt to avert further bad choices by the Russian leadership, when no other Western ally seems capable of holding Putin’s attention. By addressing the Russian leader on “ideas issues of mutual concern, including the Ukraine crisis, and the importance of engaging in dialogue to reduce tensions and arrive at a diplomatic solution,” MBZ both reinforcing the diplomatic maturity of his nation, as well as accomplishing a diplomatic feat of balancing that few Western allied nations have been able to maintain amid an era of increasing polarization and instability.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Block is an adjunct fellow at Hudson Institute. A foreign policy scholar and political strategist, Block has been involved in national politics and policy for nearly 25 years. He was a senior fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).He tweets @JoshblockDC