We cannot face Putin alone

Vladimir Putin was a wake-up call for the United States and its European allies, reminding us together of a set of truths: Hard Power Matters. Boundaries can be changed by force. Attempts to wipe out nations have not been relegated to the past. And conflict and competition will dominate the international landscape for the foreseeable future. To prevent the former and shape the latter, we need partners.

While Russia’s invasion and its atrocities have pushed back much of the western world, many nations in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America are sitting on the sidelines. Moreover, Putin retains the support of China and countries like Iran, which have no interest in accepting the norms the West believes should guide international behavior.

Even as Putin continues his war against Ukraine, the United States needs to start thinking about building coalitions for the post-war period. If Putin decides to end this war, we cannot go back to business as usual.

The mobilization of democracies in Europe and Asia is only a beginning. President Joe Biden often speaks of being at a turning point in the struggle between democracy and autocracy. But if we only divide the world along these lines, we exclude many of the nations we need to be part of a global coalition capable of countering efforts by Russia and China to impose their rules on the international system. We cannot afford to write off those nations that may not be democracies but are not revisionist states either. In the fight against those powers that are determined to create a new normal, where strength makes right, we must be able to join forces with those who increase our influence and opportunity.

Think of the Middle East. Understanding the importance of denying Putin funding for his war, Biden had to find alternatives to Russian oil — not only to meet the needs of Europeans, but also to try to minimize the explosion in energy costs. Government efforts to get Saudi Arabia, the only country with significant spare production capacity, to produce more oil have been unsuccessful. A number of factors may have led the Saudis to say no, but as a senior Saudi official told me recently, “You in America are quick to ask us to respond when you want something and not respond to us when we do.” call.” (He spoke on condition of anonymity to give an honest assessment of the situation.) He went on to say that the Saudis have tried to respond to our requests in the past because they considered the US “a trusted friend” at the time. considered their safety threatened. After being hit repeatedly by the Houthis and their Iran-supplied drones, cruise missiles and missiles, and seeing us hesitant in the region and in our responses, they no longer feel that way.

From an American perspective, other factors are at play here. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; Donald Trump’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass for his killing; other human rights abuses and the way the Saudis are pursuing their war in Yemen, all of these understandably fueled bipartisan criticism of the kingdom and led to the Biden administration’s decision to “recalibrate” US relations with Saudi Arabia. But Putin’s war has brought the reality of our needs back into focus. And the reality is that Saudi Arabia is strategically important when competing with Russia and China.

Saudi oil is needed now and for decades to come as the world transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Saudi Arabia is among the countries in the Middle East trying to build modernizing, resilient societies, and faces an Iran trying to perpetuate conflicts in the region to exploit them. Tehran’s support for Russia is no accident. A revisionist power striving to dominate the Middle East, Iran offers a path of imposed austerity in favor of a narrow-minded, intolerant ideology of resistance. What Iranians call the “axis of resistance” is in fact an axis of misery; Iran’s main exports are drones, missiles, militias and failed or failing states. (Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq are witnesses of what awaits states where Iran wields its influence.)

The persistence of a conflict-ridden Middle East may serve Russian and Iranian interests, but not ours. Fortunately, a growing coalition including Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Moroccans, Bahrainis and Israelis is already cooperating to counter Iran’s plans for the region. American Central Command provides both a mechanism to support their security needs and an umbrella under which they can integrate their intelligence, counterterrorism, early warning, cyber, missile and anti-drone activities, making them overall more secure than they would be alone . The more we foster the kind of economic cooperation and trade that Israel and the UAE are now building, the stronger we will lay a foundation for regional peace, and the more we will foster a robust coalition that supports the rules of the game we strive for internationally .

Does this mean that we must abandon our concerns about human rights and say goodbye to our values? No, but it means we’re doing what we’ve always done: weighing our priorities and trying to balance values ​​and interests. We must prevent Putin’s rules – by which stronger states dictate their weaker neighbors and civilians are the target of choice – from determining our common international future. We must build a broad coalition of states that share this goal – a goal that reflects our values ​​and not just our interests. We cannot face Putin alone

Jessica MacLeish

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