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In a swift one-day tour, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before heading to Saudi Arabia. This lightning visit aimed to bolster Moscow’s influence in the Middle East, despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Abu Dhabi Welcomes Putin

Putin touched down in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital, coinciding with the United Nations’ COP28 climate talks. This marked his first visit to the region since before the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

During talks with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Putin expressed interest in discussing energy cooperation, the Middle East conflict, and the “Ukrainian crisis.” He praised Russia’s current relations with the UAE and commended the country for hosting the COP28 climate talks.

Diplomacy Amidst Controversy

Putin’s international travel has been limited since the Ukraine conflict began. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, not bound by the ICC treaty, have no obligation to arrest him despite the ICC warrant for the war.

The UAE warmly welcomed Putin, a U.S. ally. Their strong ties with Russia deepened, offering Moscow a path around Western sanctions.

Key Players in Regional Conflicts

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia play crucial roles in international efforts to negotiate the Israel-Hamas war. Putin, with personal ties to their leaders, positions Russia as a mediator, challenging U.S. influence in the region.

Putin’s visit coincides with heightened concerns over the Israel-Hamas conflict, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Iran’s advancing nuclear program, affecting global oil prices.

Economic Ties Amidst Sanctions

The UAE’s substantial business ties with Russia have expanded, serving as a significant channel for Russia to navigate sanctions. The visit underscores the UAE’s balancing act between major security partner, the U.S., and expanding economic ties with Russia.

Global Impact of Putin’s Actions

The visit also comes in the wake of COP28 speeches by Western leaders supporting Ukraine. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, commenting on Putin’s presence, suggested that Europe’s rapid shift away from gas could be accelerated due to Putin’s actions in Ukraine.

However, Ukrainians present at COP28 expressed outrage at the international treatment of Putin, whom they view as a war criminal committing environmental crimes.

In the complex landscape of international politics, Putin’s lightning tour reflects Russia’s ongoing efforts to shape its role as a power broker in the Middle East.

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