Geopolitical Waves of Russia's Ukrainian Foray from the Black Sea to the Red Sea

Apr 6 , 2024
By Hintsa Andebrhan

In a world increasingly defined by convoluted geopolitical dynamics, the echoes of Russia's invasion of Ukraine reverberate far beyond its immediate borders, stirring a cauldron of strategic recalibrations and diplomatic manoeuvrings.

At the heart of Moscow's justification is a claim steeped in national security concerns, primarily spurred by the expansionist tendencies of Western military alliances and policies perceived to be led by the United States (US). The Kremlin's diplomatic outreach has been robust. It aims to frame the invasion as a pragmatic defence of Russian sovereignty against the backdrop of NATO's presence near its borders.

Despite widespread condemnation, Russia has engaged in a sophisticated diplomatic campaign to articulate its position, leveraging historical grievances and security imperatives to court international understanding, if not outright support. Russia's diplomatic narrative emphasises the existential threats posed by NATO's eastward expansion, portraying its military actions as a last resort in safeguarding national security. While contentious, the Kremlin's position on Ukraine reflects a deep-seated apprehension about Western encroachments.

Parallel to its military exertions, Russia has embarked on a strategic economic offensive. In response to Western sanctions, Moscow has sought to de-dollarise its trade, aligning with countries like China, India, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia in a concerted effort to challenge the Dollar's hegemony in global commerce. This economic shift, part of a broader Russian strategy to counterbalance Western influence, signals a significant realignment in international trade dynamics, with potential long-term implications for global economic stability.

However, the unfolding saga is not confined to the European theatre. Its repercussions are felt in distant regions, notably the Horn of Africa, where Ethiopia finds itself at a geopolitical crossroads of shifting alliances and emerging challenges in international relations.

The Middle East, too, has witnessed a recalibration of Russian foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Once viewing Israel as a crucial ally, the Kremlin has shifted its perspective, advocating for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The policy shift, contrasting with prior Russian positions, shows Moscow's intent to challenge Western geopolitical interests in the region aggressively.

Another arena of Russian assertiveness is the Red Sea corridor, where Moscow has deployed warships in a purported mission against piracy. While presented as an effort to secure maritime routes, this move can broadly be interpreted as an attempt to bolster Russian influence in a strategically vital region, directly challenging Western and, particularly, United States interests.

Ethiopia appears to be in a precarious position amid these global chess moves. A landlocked and aspiring for maritime access, its leaders are caught in the whirlwind of shifting alliances and regional tensions. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides a legal framework for landlocked countries to access the sea, yet realising such rights hinge on cooperative relations with coastal states.

Ethiopia's ambitions for a maritime corridor, apparently essential for its economic development and regional integration, face obstacles not only in logistics and legalities but also in international diplomacy. The geopolitical upheaval, illustrated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its global repercussions, adds layers of complexity to Ethiopia's quest. Relations with neighbouring countries, each with its own strategic interests and alliances, are crucial.

Ethiopia's foreign policy, particularly towards Somalia and Sudan, demands a nuanced approach that balances national ambitions with regional dynamics and the overarching shifts in global power structures. Reports of Ethiopia's potential territorial aspirations, as expressed by Kenyan politicians about regions like Marsabit and Lamu, add another dimension to the diplomatic challenges faced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's (PhD) administration. Whether established or not, such assertions underline the sensitivities involved in regional relations and the importance of maintaining a diplomacy-first approach to addressing border and access issues.

The recommendation for Ethiopia to reassess its foreign policy, especially about the Red Sea and its coastal neighbours, is timely. A strategic reorientation towards building stronger alliances and a realistic appraisal of geopolitical shifts could enhance its position in a rapidly changing world. The country's engagement with Somaliland and the broader Somali political landscape, alongside its position on the Sudanese border dispute, should say a lot about pursuing national interests and contributing to regional stability.

The interconnectedness of global events has never been more apparent. The fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine extends beyond the immediate conflict zone, influencing international relations, economic strategies, and regional geopolitics. The challenges are manifold for countries like Ethiopia, situated in strategically important but volatile regions. Navigating these challenges requires a balanced approach considering the evolving global landscape, regional dynamics, and national interests.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 06,2024 [ VOL 25 , NO 1249]

Hintsa Andebrhan ( worked as a researcher with the United Nations Population Fund and IPAS International Ethiopia. Interested in history and politics, his work was on social affairs.

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