Article by: Oleksandr Holubov
After the beginning of the war with Russia, Ukrainians discovered the importance of world events for their country. The editorial board of Espreso TV has identified three international crises that will have an impact on Ukraine in 2016.
The unpredictability of Russia’s position in the war in the Donbas does not bode well for other countries either. After all, the Kremlin’s reluctance to embark on greater escalation in Ukraine coupled with its failure to achieve its goals with the means on hand forces it to look for an exit for all the accumulated aggression. Putin’s Syrian adventure, which was supposed to become the next small victorious war, would have achieved its end if not for the unpleasant incident where the Russian bomber was downed by the Turkish Air Force. This incident clearly underlined Kremlin’s lack of readiness to enter into open conflict with NATO countries — a fact that is clearly contrary to the current myths of Russian propaganda. However, relations with Ankara — a longtime important regional partner for the Kremlin — were hopelessly ruined, since, according to Putin, it “stabbed Russia in the back.”
Aware of Moscow’s unpredictability, even its closest allies are gradually trying to distance themselves from the Kremlin. The Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has renewed a dialogue with the European Union and has even achieved the cancellation of a number of sanctions against his regime. His Kazakh colleague Nursultan Nazarbayev in his recent address to the nation announced changes in the “architecture of the world.” Significantly, he did this several months after a multi-day visit to China, which resulted in a number of multi-billion-dollar deals for Kazakhstan. It is entirely possible that Russia will have to extend additional efforts to maintain Minsk and Astana in its orbit.
Against the backdrop of the economic weakening of Moscow, the only remaining available lever that could compel the Kremlin to give up Ukraine is intimidation by force. It is not surprising that the intensification of military operations in Syria has coincided with the relative quiet in the Donbas. But, even if this does not happen, the intervention in the Middle East is already to Kyiv’s advantage. The experience of the USSR and the West confirms that similar interventions force those who are interested in playing geopolitical chess to get stuck in the turbulent region for a long time, exhausting all their strength. At least this is the view of the British military expert Emile Simpson, who, in his article for Foreign Policy, advises the Obama administration to simply observe as Putin becomes entangled in the Syrian mess.
Explosive Middle East
However, the Middle East is important for Ukraine not only because of Russia’s interference in regional affairs. These events have a direct influence on oil prices, with low prices guaranteeing the further weakening of Russia’s economy. Even the moderate threat to the security of oil extraction and its transit routes to consumers can influence the price of the black gold. Additionally, this region is economically important for Ukraine because its countries are among the main buyers of Ukrainian agricultural products. Therefore, stability in the Middle East is an important factor for local farmers, especially given the loss of the Russian market.
This stability is threatened not only by Russian bombers and ISIS suicide bombers but also by the leading regional countries: Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. The fall in oil prices represents the same potential dangers for both countries as it does for the Russian regime because it undermines the foundations of the economies that depend on raw materials. Therefore, both Riyadh and Teheran are interested in reviving religious conflicts in the Muslim world in order to help strengthen their own political regimes and draw attention of the populations from internal problems to external enemies.
This will not necessarily lead to open warfare between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but the revival of conflicts in countries where the two capitals are already competing with each other with the help of their own puppets will most likely be impossible to avoid. Therefore, there is little chance the wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen will end or even weaken. On the contrary, instability can also spread to other states that have managed to avoid chaos so far.
The unending turmoil in the Middle East has caused the most serious crisis of modern Europe. The chaotic flow of refugees and seekers of a better life has generated very contradictory reactions among the Europeans. The desire to help everyone coexists with the fear of the demographic, economic, and social consequences of mass migration. As a result, right-wing populists are coming closer to achieving power in various EU Countries, who are not only opposed to refugees but generally more loyal to Russia and less supportive of close European integration and rapprochement with such neighbors as Ukraine.
Besides, today’s unity appears very shaky even without the (growth of right-wing forces). The split between EU’s eastern and western countries on the issue of the fair distribution of the refugees and between north and south on the financial aid for those states that accept the largest number of refugees threatens the political capacity of the European Union. And the consequences of the European debt crisis are still noticeable in countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
Against this background, the authoritarian tendencies in Hungary and Poland are no less alarming. The installation of “Putinized” regimes on Ukraine’s western border will play into the hands of Putin himself. Even the demonstrative anti-Russian rhetoric of Jarosław Kaczyński’s associates can be misleading. The Kremlin finds it much more convenient to have several even anti-Russian countries in Europe that are isolated from each other than a European Union that is relatively moderate but united in its foreign policy. Without political unity in Brussels, there will be no effective support for Ukraine in the fight with Russia, especially on the issue of sanctions. And sanctions are much more effective than any anti-Putin rhetoric, even the most passionate.