The aggression against Ukraine has cast a new shadow over the international arena, putting global alliances and relations to the test. The MENA region is no exception in this equation. Here, the spectrum of reactions to the Russian offensive reflects the heterogeneity of regional stances on the conflict. Traditional US allies, such as Gulf Arab monarchies, have sought to remain neutral vis-à-vis the war. Turkey and Kuwait were prompt in condemning the offensive, while Israel has been very careful, and Egypt has so far maintained a neutral position. Finally, Syria officially endorsed the Russian attack, whereas Iran claimed that the crisis is “rooted in NATO’s provocations.” In this continuously evolving context, the Ukraine invasion has already affected several vital sectors in the economies of MENA countries, ranging from oil and gas to agricultural imports as well as tourism. Highly reliant on food imports, the states of the region are likely to pay a heavy toll for the upcoming rise in global wheat prices.
How could waning relations between Russia and the West reshuffle the geopolitics of the MENA region? Could regional countries play an effective role as mediators in the conflict? To what extent have recent developments in Ukraine exacerbated political instability and economic concerns in the MENA region? How will the war further worsen food insecurity in the area?
Julien Barnes Dacey, Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, European Council on Foreign Relations
Nimrod Goren, President and Founder, Mitvim – The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies
Michaël Tanchum, Non-Resident Fellow, Economics and Energy Programme, Middle East Institute
Valeria Talbot, Co-Head, Middle East and North Africa Centre, ISPI