Report to Congress on Middle East, North African Implications of War in Ukraine

June 28, 2022 9:18 AM

The following is the June 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Middle East and North Africa: Implications of 2022 Russia-Ukraine War.

From the report

The 117th Congress is examining the global implications of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war while considering Ukraine-related legislation and FY2023 authorization and appropriations proposals, and conducting oversight of Biden Administration policies. This report provides information and analysis on the effects that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war are having on the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region of continuing strategic and foreign policy salience to Congress and to U.S. strategic interests.

Russia’s war against Ukraine has both direct and indirect effects on the countries of the MENA region, imposing costs on the region’s populations and posing dilemmas for its leaders. The Russia-Ukraine war and its side effects amplify the risk of instability in the MENA region and introduce new complexities to some regional relationships. The most practical and immediate implications may come as a result of fiscal, societal, and humanitarian effects in the MENA region, particularly through energy and food commodity market changes.

  • Many MENA countries are net importers of food products and agricultural commodities, and several rely on imports from Russia and Ukraine that Russia’s invasion and blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have disrupted. Higher food prices and limited commodity availability are creating economic, public health, and political challenges in some MENA countries. Increased humanitarian needs in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon, compounded by food and energy price inflation, are generating corresponding calls for increased donor contributions. The Administration has pledged to increase food assistance for some affected countries, including Yemen, amid competing needs in other areas of the world.
  • The Biden Administration has sought diplomatic and energy market support from MENA partners in responding to the war. These partners’ responses have varied, as governments have considered their discrete interests, priorities, and ties to Russia and the United States. Higher energy prices in 2022 are putting pressure on energy importers like Jordan and creating opportunities for exporters like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Some regional governments may seek to use their relative coordination with or resistance to U.S. requests as leverage in discussions with the United States on other issues. Congress may assess the responsiveness, alignment, and needs of U.S. partners in the region as it considers the Administration’s proposals for foreign assistance, defense aid, and arms sales.
  • Russia’s military presence and the operations of Russian private military companies in the MENA region reportedly have not changed significantly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, though the press has reported some personnel movements. Congress and the Administration may continue to monitor the presence and operations of Russian forces, along with the war’s second-order effects on Russia’s defense exports and security ties to the MENA region.
  • Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and U.S. efforts to coordinate multilateral responses invite scrutiny of MENA countries’ defense and security ties to Russia, their economic and energy cooperation with Moscow, their positions on sanctions against Russian targets, and their diplomatic posture in international institutions. Emergent dynamics (e.g., the decision by some U.S. regional partners to abstain from U.N. votes related to Russia’s actions in Ukraine) may be rooted in deeper shifts and may outlast the immediate conflict.

To date, Congress and the Biden Administration have acted to make additional food assistance funding available to meet developing needs. The Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (P.L. 117-128) appropriated more than $4.3 billion in International Disaster Assistance funding, including for food assistance in Ukraine and “in countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine,” along with support to global food security programs through the Economic Support Fund (ESF), the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It remains to be determined whether these funds will be used to assist MENA countries.

Download the document here.

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