French newspaper Le Monde has said that while Western sanctions on Russia are painful, they did not consider the Kremlin’s large influence and support in the Middle East. Among those cheerleading for Russia’s authoritarian agenda is the UAE, whose financial centre in Dubai has become a magnet for authoritarian regimes and their money.
The newspaper said that Moscow’s strongmen, on whose shoulders President Vladimir Putin’s regime was built, used the UAE for their money laundering activities. UAE sovereign wealth funds have also invested billions in Russian strategic assets in the energy, petrochemical, logistics and defence sectors.
While the world condemns Russia’s actions, Le Monde pointed out, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed is holding talks with Moscow on how to enhance bilateral cooperation. This indirectly supports Russian aggression aimed at overthrowing a democratically-elected government in Europe.
According to the report, besides common geostrategic and economic interests, Russia and the UAE share a deep ideological bond around the fear of democracy. Russia’s phobia of the “Colour Revolutions” that toppled the pro-Moscow authoritarian regimes in former Soviet states is matched in Abu Dhabi, which became the main counterrevolutionary force in the Middle East during the Arab Spring revolutions. Russia’s sabotage operations are similar to what the UAE has done in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. “While the UAE’s Western partners are desperately trying to stabilise the shaky liberal order in the face of the Russian offensive against Ukraine, Abu Dhabi is likely to help further undermine it,” noted Le Monde.
The UAE has become a centre for bypassing Western sanctions, it is alleged. Despite the very strict sanctions regime against Iran, companies based in the UAE are making money by helping Iran smuggle oil to the international market. After the US imposed sanctions on Venezuela, UAE-based companies helped the Latin American country smuggle oil in the same way, and in Syria, the UAE lobbied for the lifting of US sanctions on the Assad regime, as they were impeding normalisation and the resumption of business.
The report stated that Kirill Dmitriev, who is close to Putin in the field of investment and finance, has very close personal relations with Bin Zayed. This is evidenced by the fact that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), led by Dmitriev, has invested alongside the Mubadala Investment Company in Abu Dhabi.
Le Monde ended by saying that the UAE, which pretends to be the main Western partner in the region, is increasingly placing its eggs in the eastern basket because the new authoritarianism represented by Russia and China seems more attractive to a country that for many years has led the anti-democratic revolution in the Arab world.