After fighting for more than a year and still defending Ukrainian soil, Kyiv has now taken upon a herculean task to revive the infrastructure of the war-torn nation. It is going to be an extremely strenuous venture, requiring large-scale international investment and support and never-before-seen internal changes in the nation itself.
Kuwait has announced financial support to Kyiv’s invitation to join hands in reconstructing the war-torn nation. This announcement came after Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian foreign minister, met Waleed Al-Bahar, Acting Director of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, on his trip last week.
Kuwait has been on Ukraine’s side since the beginning of the conflict. Along with Kuwait, Turkey was the only country from the Gulf region to support the US-backed resolution criticising the Russian invasion back in February 2022.
Kuwait’s similarities to Ukraine
Kuwait has a past of helping in the reconstruction endeavours of war-torn countries. In 2018, Kuwait hosted the International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq after its destruction by US-led forces. It should be noted that February 24 is also the anniversary of the ground war phase of the Gulf War that pushed back the Iraqi military from Kuwaiti soil.
Similar to Ukraine, Kuwait is also a small bordering nation to Iraq, but a slight difference is that both nations have been steadily strengthening their relations after the invasion of 1990. In 2022, Iran made the last payment of $52.4 billion claimed for destruction due to invasion atrocities.
Courtney Freer, visiting assistant professor at Emory College teaching the study of Middle Eastern, said it is surprising to see Kuwait’s support. She added that a nation that has been a victim of an invasion and defended being conquered is sensitive towards considering support aid in reconstructing another country.
Kuwait’s history of being invaded by Iraq back in August 1990 has turned it into an intuitive state towards sudden infiltration from enemy states, said Jonathan Packoff, the director of Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program. This invasion by Iraq was responsible for becoming the first domino to fall in the First Gulf War.
A fellow at the Baker Institute for the Middle East, Kristian Ulrichsen, said that Middle Eastern countries would support Ukraine in various ways, like agreeing to collaborate in multilateral funding forums or indirect contributions by donating to agencies of the United Nations. They can also opt for involvement directly on the ground of Ukraine through investments from their sovereign wealth funds and alike.
The oil-rich nations have specially allocated funds amounting to tens of billions of dollars for making investments to liberate their economy from its dependency on crude revenues. Ukrainian officials might target these leaders who have de facto control over the allocation of these funds.
This money can prove to be a game changer for both the parties, Ukraine for its after-war reconstruction and Gulf countries for their diversification goals in international infrastructure projects.
Priority to Self-interests
Some critics are suspicious as to why a fund focused on diversification would indulge in extremely risky projects, despite knowing the fact that the conflict has not ended yet and the rampant corruption complaints of war aid landing in the hands of government officials and other leaders.
Kuwait has been the torch bearer of asking for a cease-fire from the Gulf region. But this seems out of the books as of now, considering the longevity of the conflict and its unseen end. There is even no idea of how this will play out in the field of international relations between the countries from the Middle East and North Africa region and Russia or Ukraine.
The only thing that can be expected is that the Middle East will now work according to its interests and not act as a proxy of the United States. The Middle East has shown this in recent times, be it the historic Saudi-Iran deal brokered by China or the reduction of oil supply.
Clash of Interests
The road to rebuilding Ukraine is met with the challenging task of balancing healthy relations with Moscow, besides helping Kyiv. The Middle East enjoys sound ties with the erstwhile Soviet Union from much before the Russo-Ukraine conflict. It was mainly due to sharing common grounds in the global energy markets and partnerships in oil ventures. But there are countries located in that region that are heavily influenced by the White House.
Middle Eastern countries have shifted closer to Moscow during the duration of the conflict, attracting global eyeballs. But this isn’t the case with Kuwait, which continues to stay loyal to the US.
Panikoff has displayed that Middle Eastern countries will face challenges majorly at three junctures. The topmost priority is to not prick Russia in any case while supporting Ukraine.
The second tends to be that several nations have funds to support. Other surrounding nations like Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt are struggling through their economic havoc. Ultra-rich nations like Saudi Arabia are more concerned with its diversification and reducing dependency on oil money.
Lastly, whenever the reconstruction of Syria begins, the wealthy Gulf nations would be expected to bring in monetary aid.