The recent effort by the United Arab Emirates to provide a bridge between the west and Vladamir Putin is the latest example of the growing role the longtime US ally and regional leader is playing on the world stage. Given that no Western leader has the option of speaking directly to Russia’s embattled strongman, UAE President Sheik Muhammad Bin Zayed’s willingness to meet with Putin showcases the Emirate’s ability to balance both its interests and yet remain a strong western ally and advocate.
This week, the UAE followed that leadership example and its effort to find a path to end the bloody conflict in Ukraine with an announcement that the Emirati Government will provide 100 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine who are afflicted by the war in opposition to Russia’s invasion of its territory.
That aid is needed and helpful, kind, and timely, and underscores how the Emirates acts on the world stage, and it is further testimony to the hard work the UAE is engaged in to end the war between Russia and Ukraine.
In a dexterous display of the Emirates’ practical approach to international relations, the leadership there perceives no contradiction in balancing economic and political ties with the Russian Federation, which it has maintained since the 1970s, and both its vote against the invasion at the United Nations last month and its provision of assistance to alleviate the harsh situation facing millions of Ukrainians that are the results of Putin’s choice to violate Ukrainian sovereignty, in what appears to be a losing war of aggression.
In fact, the UAE has been among the most important donors of humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine since the outbreak of hostilities, with the most recent provision of $100m coming in response to an urgent appeal from the United Nations, which requested immediate support for the victims of the conflict, as the war rages on and threatens to intensify as Russian losses continue to mount.
The Emirates’ foreign policy logic rests on the realities of world politics, amidst the fierce competition and rivalry among the global powers. In pursuit of Emirati national interests — preserving order and stability, both regionally and internationally — it is seen internally as a moral task for the Emirates to remain engaged in advancing practical solutions and easing suffering amidst the chaos and challenges gripping global affairs.
The Emirates retains a balanced foreign policy and, while remaining aligned with the West, provides a valuable channel in dialogue across growing divides. It remains a possibility that should a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine still be possible, and it will be the U.A.E. that plays a mediating role between Moscow and Kyiv and eventually help to strike a deal between these two current antagonists.
It is notable that according to the Emirati leadership, the country has never declined a plea for help from any nation, and just in the past few months, has sent immediate assistance to Afghanistan, Sudan, and Pakistan, in the wake of natural disasters and humanitarian need — without which both human suffering would have been more tremendous. Instability has grown, threatening the interests of the United States and our allies. Moreover, under the leadership of Emirate’s President MBZ, the country played a leading role in the recent release from Iran of Baker Namazi, an elderly senior citizen kidnapped by the military totalitarian theocracy in Iran, which itself poses a grave threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond, earning powerful praise from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The Emirates comprehends very well the situation in Ukraine, a country of need, which is why the recent shipment of aid to Ukraine was mainly in the provision of food and direct humanitarian support that squares well with their foreign aid doctrine of the Emirates’, which seeks to address the immediate and basic needs of any country in dire circumstances.
In fact, the Emirates’ provision of aid to Ukraine is so substantive, it amounts to the same quantity provided to the Ukrainian people by the United States and Europe. By establishing such generous standards in helping Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates is providing the world with a practical example of how to assist Ukraine while maintaining a pivotal balance in the pursuit of foreign policy that advances the interests of the Emirates herself, of her allies in the West, and of the United Nations. Doing so underscores that thanks to the leadership of MBZ, the UAE is not only leading the Middle East toward peace across boundaries not foreseen before the Abraham Accords but continues to emerge as a force and an influence in the practice of humanitarian diplomacy throughout the whole world and in our contemporary times.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Maria Maalouf is a journalist, broadcaster, and owner of the capitol Tv show from Washington, DC. She holds an MA in Political Sociology from the University of Lyon. You can find her on Twitter @bilarakib
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