Skip to main content
ALM Special

Ukraine war at year 1: Has Gulf's neutrality on Russia invasion paid off?

Gulf countries — mainly the United Arab Emirates, then Qatar — as well as Turkey have been major recipients of Russian real estate investment in addition to direct financial injections.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Saint Petersburg on October 11, 2022. (Photo by PAVEL BEDNYAKOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

DUBAI — Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries took a neutral stance amid Western sanctions placed on Russia for its war on Ukraine starting about one year ago, yet their role has been anything but passive after a chain reaction of events jolted regional economies and further shifted political relationships. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022 initiated snowballing global political and economic effects that have rolled into 2023, with monetary and export sanctions that continue to disrupt global supply chains, and energy market disruptions that significantly affected Middle East markets. 

The region’s mostly impartial position gave it economic and also political opportunities. It allowed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to take on the role of negotiator between the United States and Russia for the exchange of two prisoners in December, according to the UAE’s government news agency, and benefit from relationships with both countries.

Abu Dhabi and Riyadh facilitated the prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia in December, leading to the release of US basketball star Brittney Griner after nearly nine months in detention. In return, the United States released Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.