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    Great Powers Distancing from the West: A Global Power Shift?

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    Recent events on the international arena point to a potential global power shift. On October 5th, the OPEC+ countries announced that they will cut oil production and hence export to the West due to oil price deficit. At the U.N. rights council on October 6th the Western-led motion on human rights abuses by China against Uyghurs was rejected after 19 votes against and 11 abstentions. Several were Muslim countries.

    The decisions bring future implications for global human rights and energy security. Oil production cuts have especially been met by frustration and partly due to the ongoing energy crisis in Europe, partly due to indications that Middle eastern countries are moving closer towards Russia and China at the expense of their Western relations. 

    Further, as the United States is signalling a potential withdrawal from the Yemen conflict, Russia and China may utilise the vacuum and enhance their relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Hence, a potential power shift is evident in which authoritarian states develop closer ties distancing themselves from the U.S. and where Europe, struggling from energy shortage, will constitute a severe vulnerability in Western alliances.

    KJ1: It is highly likely that Russia, China, and Iran will develop closer ties in the next 12 months.

    • On August 31st 2000 Chinese troops were present as the Russian military drill Vostok 2022 started [source].
    • During 2022 the trade between China and Russia has increased by around 30% [source].
    • According to Western intelligence officials Iran has exported military equipment to Russia as well as offered financial assistance [source].
    • In March numbers showed that China’s import of Iranian oil had reached an all-time high [source].
    • On September 15th Iran signed a memorandum to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation [source].

    On October 17th several cities in Ukraine were targeted by the Iranian made “kamikaze drones” Shahed 136 [source].

    • On October 18th Iranian military advisors were reportedly visiting a Russian military base in occupied Crimea [source].

    KJ2: It is likely that Saudi Arabia and the UAE will distance themselves from the U.S. in the next 12 months.

    • The U.S. Biden administration has ended its support of Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen [source].
    • According to U.S. intelligence services, Saudi Arabia started manufacturing ballistic missiles with Chinese support in 2021 [source].
    • In December 2021 the UAE suspended its agreement with the U.S. to buy F35 fighter jets. The decision came as a reaction to U.S. attempts to limit UAE import of Chinese technology [source].
    • On February 23rd the UAE announced its intention to buy Chinese L15 fighter jets [source].
    • On June 2nd Sergej Lavrov announced that the Gulf Cooperation Council will not impose sanctions on Russia [source].
    • On July 13th the Iranian foreign ministry announced that talks with Saudi Arabia, pointing towards normalisation, will continue [source].
    • On August 21st the UAE announced upgraded ties with Iran as their ambassador was to return to Tehran after 6 years [source].
    • On October 5th the OPEC+ announced to cut its oil production by 2 million barrels per day. The decision was met by U.S. accusations on Saudi Arabia of aiding Russia [source].
    • On October 6th, the UAE voted “no” on a U.N. motion condemning China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority [source].
    • On October 7th the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Chinese chip industry severely harming China’s aviation development [source].

    On October 11th the UAE president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met Vladimir Putin. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss “friendly relations” alongside “regional and international issues and developments of common interest” [source].

    KJ3: It is highly likely that Western states will increasingly look to the Middle East for oil and gas supplies in the next 12 months.

    • Several European countries has been phasing out nuclear power making them vulnerable to energy disturbances. Among them are Belgium, Germany, Spain and Switzerland [source].
    • There are currently 29 operational Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals in Europe and an additional 33 under construction [source].
    • In early May the UAE started shipments of crude oil to Europe, the first such shipment in two years [source].
    • On May 4th, Ursula von der Leyen announced a proposal to gradually phase out Russian oil and gas over a six month period to run in the latter half of 2022 [source].
    • On June 15th the EU, Egypt and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding to boost LNG exports to Europe [source].
    • On September 24th, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar to discuss import of LNG [source].
    • After the OPEC+ oil production cuts on October 5th, the U.S. president Biden has released the country’s oil reserve to balance price levels [source].
    • Saudi Arabia has raised the oil prices for U.S. exports after accusations of OPEC+ siding with Russia [source]. On September 7th Saudi Arabia cut crude oil prices to Europe by $4 per barrel [source].
    • On October 11th Israel made an agreement with Lebanese Hezbollah which is expected to enable LNG shipments to Europe [source].
    • Europe has been forced to find alternative energy sources due to Russian gas cuts. On October 18th dozens of cargo ships carrying Liquified Natural Gas were circling off the coasts of Spain. Due to a lack of “regasification” capacity the ships were unable to unload its cargo, pointing to the high demand [source].

    Intelligence Cut-off date: November 7th 2022

    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren
    Oscar Rosengren is a student at the Swedish Defence University in Stockholm. His main focus area is the Sahel Region and West Africa. Specific interests are asymmetric threats, mainly terrorism, covert action, and cyber threats.

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