Biden’s allies in the Middle East are changing their minds about the war in Ukraine as the conflict escalates

All US allies in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion and calling for its immediate withdrawal from Ukraine.

The obvious change in the heart came suddenly. Saudi Arabia called for de-escalation on Tuesday afternoon. The Gulf Cooperation Council, whose members include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, also issued a statement calling for restraint and diplomacy. They did not condemn Russia.

But the most striking change came from the UAE, which only last week refrained from such a resolution in the Security Council. A senior official explained then that choosing a country would only lead to more violence.

One million refugees are fleeing Ukraine as Russia escalates bombings of key citiesThe UAE believes the war in Ukraine has reached a “dangerous turning point,” said UN Ambassador Lana Nuseibe. “The international community is concerned about what is happening on the ground,” she said. “The humanitarian situation is deteriorating with each passing day. “Yesterday, for the first time, they did acknowledge that this is a global and deliberate crisis,” said Chincia Bianco, a research fellow in Europe and the Persian Gulf at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “So they have to take a stand.”

Relations between Russia and the Gulf countries have grown over the past few years. Both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh see Russia as their main partner in the OPEC + group of oil exporters, which coordinates a production policy that effectively sets world crude oil prices. The UAE and Russia launched a “special relationship” two years ago aimed at boosting trade and co-operation. This week, Russia voted in favor of a UAE-backed Security Council resolution calling Yemeni Hussein a terrorist organization after abstaining.

But Gulf ties with the United States have been strained recently. Speaking at a defense conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba said relations between the UAE and the United States were undergoing a “stress test”, adding that he was confident it would be overcome.

The UAE has also changed its tone towards Ukrainians wishing to travel to the country. Abu Dhabi was criticized on Tuesday for suspending the abolition of visas for Ukrainian citizens. The announcement was made on the Facebook page of the Ukrainian embassy in the UAE.

In an apparent reverse situation, the UAE said on Thursday that Ukrainian citizens still qualify for visas on arrival.

More than 1 million have fled so far since the fighting began, with European countries preparing for a huge influx of refugees.