“War not in the name of democracy”, “Will democracy arsenals benefit Ukraine?” these and other similar headlines mirror Middle Eastern views on the situation in Ukraine. They address a key narrative of the Western world: Ukraine allegedly has become a flashpoint where war “between Western democracy and Russia’s authoritarianism” rages on.
This message has hit a nerve of many Arabs for two reasons. Firstly, democracy and its role in national communities is a subject of fierce debates. Secondly, various analysts have drawn parallels between what the West has been doing in Ukraine and its actions within crises that took place in their homeland.
Analysts converge that democracy as an image, the cult of politics and international efforts have been and remains the West’s hobbyhorse. In the past, the United States under the guise of moral imperatives drove their own policies, incited and declared wars and invasions. In Afghanistan, it happened under the slogan of “protecting the world” from terrorism and standing up for human rights and freedoms. As a result, the adversary Washington waged war against eventually got back in power, becoming even more seasoned than before.
In Iraq, Western methods of democratization and protection of individual rights brought in at the point of the bayonet and without taking into account the reality on the ground, proved to be detrimental. They aggravated inter-communal contradictions, led to strife and armed religion- and sectarian-based conflicts, to rampant terrorism.
Promoting liberal values across the former Soviet Union set the stage for a slew of so-called color revolutions. They have brought to power new forces that eventually failed in governing, including in terms of their attitude towards Russians or Russian-speaking communities in those republics, the region’s media argue.
The West paved the way to the Ukrainian crisis drawing upon NATO, according to Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, while in ideological terms it relied upon democracy using it as a smoke screen for attempted regime change. Starting with the Orange Revolution and ending with a coup d’etat in 2014, the West relied on the local nationalists. The West has nurtured and financed them as it did in the case of the Society of the Muslim Brothers (banned in Russia) in the Middle East to pit it against local legitimate authorities.
Washington has been hectically supplying Kiev with equipment and arms as it did back in the day with Afghan mujahideen during their war against the Soviet Union. Some contributors derided these supplies as “democracy arsenals”.
Washington aims to bleed Russia white as it stands in the way of US plans to perpetuate it global dominance. The US does not care about Ukrainians dying in, as Biden said, the struggle “between democracy and dictatorship” in Ukraine, Alquds newspaper argues.
As for the incantations of some political figures saying that the Kremlin attacked Ukraine because it was wary of Kiev’s influence on the fate of the Russian regime as well as Russians leaping at the experience of Ukraine’s democracy, they are mere conjectures. From its very inception, Kiev regime did not achieve any success. The nation has been lagging behind its two neighboring Slavic republics. According to the World Bank, in 2020, the income level of the Ukrainian population was three times lower than in the Russian Federation and almost two times lower than in Belarus. Millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave their homeland as they were looking for a job in the West and in Russia. At the same time, Russians are not streaming to Ukraine seeking employment. In terms of corruption, Ukraine is way ahead of both the Russian Federation and Belarus. In other words, Kiev’s democratic system isn’t that attractive.
However, in recent decades, liberalism has been faltering in Western countries too. Against the background of the massive refugee influx to Western European countries, alt-right and radical organizations that promote narrow-minded nationalism, chauvinism, and pro-racist views have been gaining momentum. Their clout has grown significantly in a number of countries at different levels, a tendency that affects Middle Eastern and African migrants. All this has spilt over foreign policy.
According to a Bahraini political scientist, the events in Ukraine have debunked Western narrative about freedom, exposing the arrogance of its politicians and merchants of deaths. Mountains of lies and speculations are piled up by the Western media against Moscow under a “digital dictatorship”.
The Arabs are surprised why such a reaction was nowhere to be seen when the United States were waging war against Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, and invading Syrian border regions, the Libyan outlet argues. Why weren’t their citizens banned from international sports competitions or cultural events, etc? “Democracy of hatred” is being fueled and spread by the United States and its allies against a country that protects its borders and its vital space from external threats.
Joe Biden’s project to divide the world into “democracy vs. authoritarianism” is increasingly seen as interference in the internal affairs of various states in order to destabilize them, contends a prominent Egyptian media personality. This plan is meant to portray the governing systems that exist not only in Russia or China, but in other countries without exceptions as illegitimate. This led not only to the war in Ukraine, but also put a strain on relations with those who used to be US allies. The United States and its allies are also pushing their key narrative about what is happening in Ukraine to squeeze Middle Eastern countries and to get them to change their perspective on the Russian special operation in Ukraine. Most of the countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia that used to be allies of the West explicitly or implicitly told it that “the war in Ukraine” is your problem.
The resurfacing of Russia as one of the poles in this world will upend the balance of power moving it close to the new international order. There are many countries that are willing to edge towards this order together with Moscow, that’s why it is possible to establish various alliances on the way. These opportunities await developing countries and countries that remain in the shadows, but strive to get out from Uncle Sam’s umbrella, the Dunya Al-Watan newspaper sums it up.
Yury Zinin, a senior researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.