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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - West in decline, focus shifting in Middle East, and rise of China the major geopolitical changes this decade, FII Priority told
MIAMI: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine carries the same existential threat to Europe and the West’s security order as Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 did for the Middle East’s, an international relations expert told the FII Priority conference in Miami on Friday.
John Chipman, director-general and chief executive at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, was speaking at the conference about the major geopolitical shifts the world is facing in the near future.
He highlighted that, while the West recognized that Iraq’s invasion could have begun a domino effect in the region, the “strategically illiterate” response from its key players to the crisis in Ukraine was symptomatic of a slow decline in its geopolitical influence.
According to Chipman, the West should have taken some action in the years preceding the invasion — and definitely once the invasion had started — to put the fear of escalation into the mind of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“What (it) did was talk too much about NATO, and not about UN article 51, and for that (the West) lost the Global South,” he said. “What we should have said from the beginning was that this was a Russian war of recolonization — an imperialist adventure.”
As a result of the Ukraine war, Chipman said, the geopolitical center of gravity in Europe will shift toward its east and north, as signified by Thursday’s admission of Finland into NATO; and more broadly speaking, Russia would become a “hugely reduced power.”
A secondary geopolitical shift underway is the downgrading of the Middle East region on the US’s list of security priorities, Chipman told the conference.
“Maybe 10 years ago, in the US’s strategic calculus, the Middle East was number one on the list of priorities, with Asia number two and Europe a distant third,” he said. “Now it’s been reversed, with Europe number one, Asia co-equal and set to overtake Europe once the (Ukraine) war is over, and the Middle East now a distant third.”
This shift is not necessarily a bad thing, Chipman stated, and has led to what he called more “strategic self-determination,” especially for Gulf states, adding: “Gulf leaders now do not begin their morning meetings with the question ‘What will the US think if we do this?’”
Tensions in the region still exist, in large part due to Iran’s “main asset” of networks of influence and destabilization and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Chipman said should be the main focus of the rest of the world, considering most attention is paid to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and its ballistic-missile program.
Israel sliding toward becoming a “theocaratic state” also threatens regional stability, he said, adding: “Perhaps the signatories of the Abraham Accords will need to play a role, quietly, to persuade Israel to keep its secular qualities.”
In Asia, an increase in Japanese defense spending, which Chipman said makes it a more extrovert power on the global stage, shows its growing distrust of Russia, China and North Korea.
In addition, China’s rise has become so important that “no country in the world, however big or small, can afford not to have a China policy,” he concluded.
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