Multipolar world to see new centre of power

GCC countries’ influence on the international arena is growing

After 2008, when the USA failed to influence Russia’s actions in a military conflict in South Osetia, a new multi-polar system emerged to replace the unipolar world. Besides the USA, the European Union, Russia, China and Brazil are seeking more influence on the international scene. We should also take into account the Islamic influence on the world order. Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan and some other nations with a large population are struggling for leadership in the Islamic world. For instance, Indonesia’s population is 237 million people, Pakistan’s is 177 million, and the population of Iran and Turkey is approaching 80 million. With this in mind, countries with smaller population, members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) remain in shadow. However, they deserve more attention.

March 6, 2012, six members of the block -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar -- announced a shift from the regional block into confederation. The population of the future confederation will total about 45 million people while its area will reach 2.572.797. sq. km. Its GDP will exceed 1400 billion dollars. Thus, having less population (compared with the population of the mentioned big Islamic states), the future confederation would have significantly larger area and higher GDP.

Turkey’s and Indonesia’s GDP is almost twice as low, Iranian GDP is lower more than three and a half times, and the Pakistan economy volume is eight times as low. The confederation is likely to invite other countries that are able to substantially increase its resource potential to join it in future. As a result, it might become an integration hub for the Islamic world.

By now, the block member states have not had any marked influence on the global events. It was the GCC that affected the Libyan events by encouraging its western allies to get the UN permit for military actions against Muammar Gaddafi. GCC and Gaddafi failed to form diplomatic ties that would satisfy all the parties. The great influence that the oil-producing Gulf states have on the global energy security system are not to be discarded. Recently, Qatar’s biggest bank, QNB Capital, has released investigation results suggesting that the Gulf states hold hydrocarbon resources worth 65 trillion dollars (according to existing prices). This is one-third of the world’s oil and gas reserves, which are estimated at 200 trillion dollars. According to the Qatar bank, with the present extraction rate, oil will be available for the next 70 years and gas – for 118 years. Taking into consideration the increasing extraction rates (for instance, Kuwait intends to increase oil production fourth times by 2020), the volume of the current extraction will be increasing sharply. This entails the concentration of huge financial resources in the member states.

The Gulf countries play a critical role in global finance. In late 2011 Saudi Arabia alone managed to push Russia down from the third place that it occupied for many years by gold reserves to the fourth. Saudi gold reserves totalling 556 billion dollars can be compared with Belarus’ 10-year GDP. The gold reserves of the other Persian Gulf states exceed 121 billion dollars.

These sums seem to be grandiose, but it is a petty amount compared to other assets owned by these states. They are primarily public investment funds, belonging to the GCC countries whose interests are represented throughout the world. According to the Sovereign Funds Study Institute estimations, the six Persian Gulf countries hold more than 1720 billion dollars in these funds. This is one-third of all financial resources kept in all investment funds around the world.

Here is another very important feature of GCC investment funds. Once they had wide opportunities to invest in western countries. Russia’s and China’s public investment funds can only dream about such opportunities. Due to the opportunities of their investment funds, the Gulf countries are very powerful on the western political arena and can successfully influence both foreign and interior policy of the western states. Hundreds of influential western politicians and lobbyists, business leaders and leading media serve interests of the Persian Gulf states. This explains western countries’ unusual detachment from sound criticism of tough monarchies dominating the region, not to mention discussions of the possibility to impose sanctions for neglecting western «standards of genuine democracy». Business interests of the GCC countries and the West are so much interconnected that can not be separated. This, however, is a looming threat to the independence of the western countries. As non-western states will become mightier, they will use these tools to subordinate western countries. Western politicians understand that threat very well. It is not by accident that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reputedly raised this issue in her speech at the G 20 foreign ministers meeting on February 19, 2012. Surely, Of course, the GCC states will not miss their chance.

The future confederation’s media possibilities should be also kept in mind. In 1996 Qatar launched an international TV channel Al Jazeera that has grown into an influential mass media well known all over the world.

It is very likely that the would-be confederation will utilize all mentioned resources as well as many others for taking a leading position in the Islamic world. Then it will transform into the GCC countries’ growing influence on the international arena. Therefore, we can only welcome those very positive contacts and prospects that are forming between the Gulf states and Belarus.

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