Putin visits Gulf states

Despite the international warrant for his arrest, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Gulf region on Wednesday. After meetings with President Mohammed bin Zayed and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, he praised their mutual trade relations. Other topics on the agenda were oil policy and the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine. Is this all just symbolic politics or does it go deeper?

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The division of the world laid bare

Putin is demonstrating with his trip that there are plenty of countries that are well-disposed towards him, Rzeczpospolita explains:

“This was the Russian president's longest trip since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest in March. It seems he's not particularly worried that for technical reasons, for example, he might have to land in a country that respects the Rome Statute. He is proving that he can cover more than 5,000 kilometres (in a straight line from Moscow) flying only over countries that are friendly or neutral to his policies. This illustrates very effectively how deeply divided the world is.”

Der Standard (AT) /

More than just an economic partner

The terrorist attack by Hamas has strengthened Putin's position in the region, writes Der Standard:

“The Russian president is now a welcome guest in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Even after 24 February 2022, the Gulf states have continued to deepen their ties with Moscow. ... For Putin, the Gulf states, alienated from the US under Barack Obama, are not only an economic partner but also a playing field on which he can celebrate the US's declining hegemony. Hamas's terrorist attack on Israel has given him an argument that supports the idea of US policy bringing disaster to the region: Putin is suddenly embracing the Palestinian cause, which had never interested him until now.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Putin casting himself as the winner

Putin is winning the PR war, writes Handelsblatt:

“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks through the snow-covered streets of Kyiv in sub-zero temperatures, calling on the population to hold out, while his diplomats in the West fight under enormous pressure for international support for Ukraine to continue. On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin is received like a king in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. ... He appears more confident and relaxed than on previous trips. ... Casting yourself as a winner influences the world's perception of you - especially when the other side is increasingly seen as a supplicant.”

France Inter (FR) /

Making Ukraine fade into the background

Russia's president is polishing up his international reputation, columnist Pierre Haski observes on France Inter:

“This trip to the Middle East will probably have no concrete impact on the course of the conflict at this stage, but it will help Russia in its battle for public opinion worldwide. It will allow him with little effort to discredit the West, accused of double standards because it supports Ukraine on the one hand but has long remained passive regarding the fate of the Palestinians, in defiance of international law, on the other. Putin knows that this argument is working: it allows him to make people forget about Ukraine.”