The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is going through a major structural transformation in the last decade. This transformation is closely related to the transformation of power balance in the global scene. The U.S. has already decided to reduce its military presence in the Middle East. This will be a continuing pattern unless an unexpected development or friction occurs in the region in the coming months. This is mainly related to the declining significance of the region for the next big global power struggle.
The new struggle is expected to be between China and the U.S. The economic dimension of this struggle has already started with the trade wars. For the time being both actors try to keep this struggle under control but if a broader confrontation occurs in Hong Kong, Taiwan or the South China Sea this may immediately escalate into a broader geopolitical confrontation. Nobody expects a full-scale war between the major powers any time soon but the tensions will lead conflicts in the proxies.
For both Washington and Beijing, keeping a manageable tension and keeping the proxy confrontations under control is currently the preferred strategy. They both want to keep Moscow on their side in case of a major geopolitical confrontation, that is why Moscow is experiencing one of its best periods in terms of regional expansion. Moscow is the primary beneficiary of the mounting tension between Washington and Beijing.
The power vacuum left by Washington in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is gradually being filled by Russia. Russia also projects its power and influence on Eastern Europe. Major European actors and American allies in the Middle East feel sidelined and abandoned in this new situation.
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