Deteriorating conditions in the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region could trigger a reinvigorated migration crisis on Europe’s southern shores.
As Ukrainian refugees in the European Union now reach over 5 million, Vladimir Putin’s new offensive in Ukraine’s east will inevitably increase these numbers. However, the war’s economic impact will continue to have far-reaching implications globally.
For the Middle East’s oil-producing Gulf states, the exponential rise in oil prices has boosted their economies, at least for now. Although much of MENA is struggling with rising inflation that threatens greater instability, the full impact of Putin’s war in Ukraine is yet to be felt in the broader region, and beyond.
The bottom line is that the worst will unfold in the coming weeks and months as the violence, humanitarian fallout and global economic consequences reach exponentially greater heights.
Many states in MENA have been struggling to take a clear diplomatic stance on Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – particularly due to growing relations with Russia in recent years. However, a leading reason is food insecurity, as many parts of the region remain dependent on Russian, and also Ukrainian, wheat and fertilizers.
The situation is further compounded by Russia’s restrictions on its own wheat exports and attacks on Ukrainian ports and fuel and wheat storage facilities. Many MENA states also do not want to incur the wrath of Western nations, primarily the US, for being seen as too close to Russia.
The EU’s new “food diplomacy” offensive aims to provide urgent relief to states at risk of socioeconomic turbulence and challenge Russia’s narrative that Western sanctions are responsible for the current food crisis.
As Putin’s war in Ukraine further deteriorates into the abyss, many states in the region are likely to continue pursuing a delicate diplomatic balancing act for the foreseeable future.
In addition, as the socioeconomic situation in the MENA region worsens, so does the risk of an exacerbated migration crisis on Europe’s southern shores.
Marco Vicenzino is director of Global Strategy Project, a geopolitical risk and international business advisory firm.