A Changing Regional Order: The Arab Uprisings, the West and the BRICS | Ifi Working Paper
Working Paper | September 2013
A Changing Regional Order: The Arab Uprisings, the West and the BRICS by Christina Lassen
The Arab uprisings have thrown the regional order of the Middle East into disarray and are challenging traditional actors and alliances. Notably, regional actors, both governments and the region’s people, are driving developments to a much larger extent than before. This paper will explore how the European Union (EU) 1 and the United States, in the following referred to as “the West”, reacted to the Arab uprisings and whether the West has managed to play an active role and influence the new regional order emerging in the aftermath of the uprisings. The paper argues that the influence of the EU and the United States in the Middle East has gradually diminished since the uprisings began, in spite of the groundbreaking events that could have brought the West and the Middle East closer together. While the West is retracting, other global actors, in particular emerging global powers such as the BRICS-countries,2 are seeking to boost their influence in the region, either directly or indirectly through regional actors. While the BRICS as a group have no common project or coordinated policy, it seems that in the Middle East, their interests are currently converging in a significant manner. Common for all, they appear to have been more consistent in their policy towards the uprisings than the West, generally favoring the status quo, albeit for different reasons. The paper will explore the role of the BRICS in the Middle East after the uprisings and poses the question whether the competition for influence in the Middle East may reflect the battle for influence on a global level, where the Western-dominated order of the past decades is on the decline, and emerging powers seek to influence the new global order.