The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies held the Ninth Annual Gulf Studies Forum at its Doha premises on 22-23 October 2022. This round was titled “The Ukraine Crisis, Regional and International Competition, and the Future of Energy and Security in the Gulf.”
The forum discussed the political, security and economic repercussions of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, with 23 research papers being presented over seven sessions and a public lecture.
Professor Khaled Al-Maadeed opened the Forum with a speech in which he emphasized value of the yearly event, launched by the Arab Center in December 2014, as an academic platform uniquely specialized in studying Gulf affairs the most pressing political, economic, social and cultural issues in the region. Eight rounds have been organized so far, based on social and economic reforms in the GCC, education, economic diversification, the blockade of Qatar, social transformations and the question of identity and values in the Gulf, public policy-making, security, Gulf relations with the Us and Iran, sovereign funds, and the response of the Arab Gulf states to the global Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the Forum continues its endeavour to address the most prominent issues facing the region, represented by the Ukraine crisis and its impact on the Gulf. Despite its distance from conflict, the Gulf found itself at the heart of the crisis. Al-Maadeed ended by announcing the establishment of a new unit at the Arab Center, dedicated to studying the Gulf and Arabian Peninsula, to better understand the role of this region in international politics, diplomacy, the global economy, sports, media and energy. The unit will produce in-depth research in order to fill a gap in the quantity and quality of current studies on the region and related issues.
Rashid Hamad Al-Nuaimi chaired the first session, introducing the panel exploring “The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on Gulf International Relations (1)”. The first speaker, Abdullah al-Shaiji, presented his paper “How Does Russia’s war on Ukraine affect US-Gulf Relations?” in which he sought to answer whether Gulf neutrality has become a burden on relations with its US ally and protector. Giorgio Cafiero followed with his study “Implications of the Ukrainian Crisis for Relations between Arab Gulf States and Russia,” in which he examines the varying efforts of all six GCC states to deepen their ties with Moscow in recent years.
Session 2 continued with “The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on Gulf International Relations (2)”, chaired by Ghanim Al-Najjar. Jonathan Fulton began with his paper “The Ukrainian Crisis and the Future of Gulf Relations with China,” arguing that Beijing has become a vital partner for all GCC member states. Fatiha Dazi-Héni followed with her paper “The Ukrainian Crisis and Geopolitical Shifts in the Arab Gulf Region,” arguing that the Gulf states are primed to occupy a central strategic place for the EU in light of the Ukraine crisis.
The third session “The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on Gulf Regional Relations,” was chaired by Mohammed Al-Mesfer. Saban Kardas presented “The Implications of the Ukraine crisis on Relationship between the GCC countries and Türkiye,” which discussed the relations between Türkiye and the GCC in a dynamic and changing geopolitical atmosphere post-Ukraine crisis. The last study of the day, “The Russian War on Ukraine and the Future of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran,” was presented by Mahjoob Zweiri and argues that the ongoing war in Ukraine created an opportunity to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, but that the opening was nevertheless tied to Russia's opposition to the revival of the agreement.
Closing the first day of the conference, Marwan Kabalan introduced a public lecture by Charles A. Kupchan on “The Ukraine War and Its Geopolitical Implications,” followed by a Q&A session. Kupchan, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and Professor of International Affairs at Georgetown University, discussed Moscow's strategic partnership with Beijing and the already building tension between the United States and China. This raises the spectre of mounting geopolitical rivalry between the West and a Sino-Russian bloc stretching from the Western Pacific to Eastern Europe. He argued that the Gulf states could benefit from greater independence when making regional decisions as a result of the ensuing global multipolarity, especially as trade and geopolitical cooperation with China increases.
Abdullah Baabood chaired the fourth session on “The Future of Relations between Japan and the Arab Gulf States in Light of the Ukraine Crisis.” The first speaker, Kazuto Matsuda, presented “Relations between Japan and GCC States from the Japanese Perspective,” which argued the interpretation of the increasing turn of GCC states to the East as a desire for greater economic and trade cooperation has marginalised and disregarded Tokyo's perspective on relations between Japan and Arab Gulf states. He concludes that Tokyo's proactive turn towards the GCC states indicates that it is willing to strengthen long-term cooperation with Gulf states.
Kazuo Sunaga, presented “Japan's Foreign Policy towards Arab Gulf States in Light of the Ukrainian Crisis,” arguing that the Ukrainian crisis has alerted Japan to the growing strategic importance of Arab Gulf states. Koichiro Tanaka followed with his paper, “The Impact of the Ukrainian Crisis on Energy Security in Japan and the Role of Arab Gulf States,” which examines the impact of the Ukraine crisis on Japan's energy security and explores possible future relations with states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, particularly Qatar. The final speaker on the panel, Satoru Nakamura, argued in his paper, “Is a New Chapter in Qatar-Japan Relations on the Horizon in Light of the Ukrainian Crisis?” that both Qatar and Japan are experiencing a dynamic transformation that requires continued dialogue to restructure their multipronged cooperation, especially in energy and security.
The fifth session was chaired by Hatim al-Shanfari and considered “The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on Energy Security and the Role of the Arab Gulf States.” Majed Al Turki presented “The Regional and International Repercussions of the Russian-Ukrainian Crisis: A Reading of Riyadh's Position,” which discussed the prospects for Saudi political and diplomatic rapprochement with Russia, contemplating the future of a Saudi understanding with Russia within the OPEC + framework. Mustafa al-Bazarkan presented “A Global Hybrid Energy System: Energy Opportunities and Challenges in the Arab Gulf Region in Light of the Ukrainian Crisis,” which examines the EU's efforts to find alternatives to Russian oil, arguing that the war in Ukraine will reshape the global energy order anew. This represents a promising opportunity for Arab Gulf oil- and gas-producers and exporters, which possess productive capacities beyond those of other producers like the US. Nikolay Kozhanov argued that the war has shifted the international community's focus from demand security to supply security, which has in turn led Western states to look to oil-producing states in the Gulf as a potential alternative to Russia in the European energy market.
Naji Abi Aad followed with his paper, “The Impact of the Ukrainian Crisis on Global and Gulf Gas Production,” which argues that with the interruptions to Russian gas supplies to several European states, the continent was compelled to take energy-saving measures to reduce its dependence on Russian gas in favour of other energy sources, particularly coal and nuclear energy, with a special interest in renewables. He thus expects Europe to rely more heavily on LNG, in order to enhance the security of its gas supplies, and to import LNG, especially from the US, Qatar, Australia, Mozambique, and Canada.
The sixth session, “The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on the Economies of the Gulf” was chaired by Habib Allah Turkistani. Thomas W O'Donnell & Laurence al-Hinawi presented their paper “Impact of the Russian-Ukrainian War on Global and Gulf Energy Markets,” examining how GCC states could put themselves at the centre of today's chaotic market to enhance their short- and long-term centrality in the European, Indian, and possibly Chinese markets lost by Russia, which would strengthen their economies. The next speaker, Ayhab Saad, presented “Impact of the Ukrainian Crisis on Inflation in GCC States,” examining the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on inflation in GCC states and seeking to understand the differential impact of inflation in the GCC states and whether it exists. Rachid El Bazzim rounded off the panel with his paper “Gulf States and the Ukraine War: Between Climate Commitments and Energy Security Anxieties” which discusses Saudi Arabia and the UAE's stance on increasing oil production, putting them at odds with the US, with both of them showing a reluctance to align themselves to the position of any individual party on Ukraine. The paper seeks to answer a series of questions about the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the energy sector and the role the Gulf states play.
The seventh session, “The Impact of the Ukraine Crisis on Food Security in the Gulf,” was chaired by Zafar al-Ajami. Mohammad al-Saidi presented “The Ukraine War and the Food Security Crisis: The Impact on Arab Gulf States,” which argues that, in addition to classic economic responses such as trade controls, the diversification of supplies, public subsidies, and government assistance, that Arab Gulf states could mitigate the damage caused by the Ukraine crisis by strengthening regional cooperation and assistance related to food security. Annamaria Mazzoni finished off the final panel with her paper, “Water, Food, and Energy Security in Crisis: Qatar Confronts the Ukrainian Crisis,” which contends that the Ukraine crisis is likely to reshape alliances around the world, including within Arab Gulf states. The paper evaluates food diplomacy and multilateral trade management and cooperation between Qatar and other Arab states, with due regard for the requirements of continued sustainability.
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