UAE does about turn and finally condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine at UN

UAE does about turn and finally condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine at UN
The UAE went back on its decision to refrain from criticising Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by voting in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution lambasting Moscow for its unprovoked aggression.
3 min read
03 March, 2022
Russian President Putin was welcomed to the UAE by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed during a visit to the Gulf state in 2019 [Getty]

The UAE finally denounced Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine after it backed a vote in the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday condemning the assault.

It came just days after the UAE abstained from a similar motion at the Security Council.

The latest resolution, which "deplores in the strongest terms the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine", was supported by 141 of the UN's 193 members.

This time the UAE backed it, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

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It is unclear what has led to the UAE's u-turn, but last week's abstention led to grumbles in western capitals about the Gulf state's stance.

There was particular mistrust after Kremlin's news agency reported this week that Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed "stated the right of Russia to ensure its national security" - de-facto backing for the brutal Russian invasion.

Abu Dhabi has strong ties with Moscow, particularly on energy strategy issues - but they also share a common enmity for pro-democracy movements in the region.

Dr Ali Bakir, Research Assistant Professor at Qatar University's Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, told The New Arab that he does not see the UAE's vote in the General Assembly as particularly significant but it could hint at political games by Abu Dhabi regarding its western allies.

"Abu Dhabi’s primary position has been in support of Russia, even if they were abstaining from the vote in the Security Council," referring to last week's vote. 

"The vote in the UN General Assembly is not as critical, it is just a symbolic action, even if it can be utilised to pressure Russia.”

According to Bakir, there could be three reasons why the UAE has taken this stance.

The first is that Abu Dhabi wants Russia's support in the UN, which was seen this week when Moscow backed a UN weapons embargo against the Yemen rebels.

The second is that the UAE wants to send a message to US President Biden by appearing to support Russia at the UNSC. "Since Biden came to power, he has somehow sidelined the UAE and Saudi Arabia and in turn empowered Qatar on the regional and international stage," said Bakir.

The third reason could be that Abu Dhabi is trying to reposition itself in a changing global arena where there is a shift in power from the West to the East. This can be reflected by China and India's refusal to condemn Russian aggression.

"Abu Dhabi’s actions... can be interpreted as a way to balance between the great powers in order to best serve the national interest," he added. 

Russia’s devastating invasion has killed thousands and forced a million people to flee their homes in Ukraine. The southern city of Kherson fell Wednesday evening, which could provide the Russian army access to Ukraine's valuable ports on the Black Sea.