Symposium on the Russian-Western crisis over Ukraine and its repercussions on the Middle East
On March 1, 2022, the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs organized a symposium on “The Russian-Western crisis over Ukraine and its repercussions on the Middle East region”; It dealt with three main axes that addressed the Ukrainian perspective, the Russian perspective, and the vision of the United States of America and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the conflict. The symposium was opened by Ambassador Dr. Mounir Zahran, ECFA Chairman, and attended by members of the Council, including experts, academics and former ambassadors.
First, the speakers pointed out that the post-Cold War arrangements are a major cause of this crisis, at least from the Russian perspective, as the West violated the verbal pledges it had made not to expand NATO to the East, and Ukraine violated the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, which stipulates Ukraine’s neutrality, by seeking to join NATO. This led to an increase in Russia’s security and strategic concerns. It was also emphasized that Russia is dealing with Ukraine as not the ultimate goal of its special military operation launched on February 24, 2022, but rather as an entry point to address the geostrategic and security system with the West. When launching its operation, Russia sought to exploit the Biden Administration’s focus on the domestic agenda, addressing the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and placing the issue of strategic competition with China at the top of its foreign priorities, as well as the state of European division and the dependence of a significant number of EU countries on Russian energy supplies. However, the multi-level European mobilization in support of Ukraine was clearly noted, and the Russian military operation led to the European Union aligning behind the United States of America, a variable which extent might not have been estimated by the Russian side.
The participants pointed out that the U.S. gains from this war are represented in the revival and strengthening of the NATO file, and the easing of the financial burden on its shoulders within the alliance. However, the issue of European security represents an additional front in the U.S. external confrontations with China, noting that the international community is on the verge of a state of sharp polarization in light of the United States’ unremitting efforts to mobilize the largest possible number of allies and partners to isolate Russia and damage its economy, in the framework of what might be called “coercive diplomacy”. Some participants suggested that it could be classified within the framework of protracted conflicts, given the intertwining of Russian/Ukrainian variables on the one hand, and Russian/Western on the other. The participants concluded that Egypt should lead a unified Arab stance regarding the crisis, avoiding bias towards a particular party as much as possible.