As anticipated from the outset, Russia’s launch of what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine has had a profound impact on the global balance of power, reshaping international priorities on multiple fronts. Furthermore, the consequences of current Israeli attacks in Gaza are increasingly evident, extending beyond the region’s geographical boundaries.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was quick to confirm his absolute support for Israel and its right to defend itself, following Hamas’ launch of Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” last week. However, Ukrainian support for Israel was surprising since the latter refused to provide Kyiv with the Iron Dome system to confront Russian air attacks, whether by drones or missiles. Israel also did not join the Western sanctions regime against Moscow. Yet, Ukrainian politicians have realized that support for Israel is a priority for all American administrations. Washington is set to allocate the largest share of military, economic and diplomatic support to defend Israel. In stark contrast, major disagreements have erupted in the U.S. Congress over support packages for Kyiv, in light of the crisis of raising the debt ceiling and fears of closing federal institutions.
It is known that Israel did not implement the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, and flights and trade exchanges between the two sides continue.
Officials in Tel Aviv have been clear that their caution regarding the Ukraine crisis is due to the desire to maintain the margin of maneuver that Israel enjoys in Syria. Any provocative stance taken by Moscow could reduce its ability to launch airstrikes inside Syrian territory to prevent Iran from establishing itself there and to thwart its attempts to transfer weapons to Hezbollah.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to point out the failure of the United States’ Middle East policy after Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. Zelenskyy, regardless of his support for Israel, faces an uncertain situation should tensions in Gaza escalate, particularly if Israel launches a ground military operation, as its duration is unpredictable. This situation is not in Ukraine’s interest and could weaken Western support for Kyiv, given the priority shift toward Israel. The Middle East crisis may divert international attention away from the Ukraine crisis.
Divided preoccupations of the U.S.
Washington’s preoccupation on two fronts, supporting Ukraine and supporting Israel in two wars, is in Russia’s interest because it will make Ukraine’s importance decline among Western parties, militarily, politically, medially and diplomatically.
The longer these conflicts last, the more this will be in China’s interest if it wishes to move to implement a military scenario in Taiwan, as Washington will not be able to control all of these files at the same time. There is also a primary goal for Russia, which is to weaken the Western world order, a project with which its allies in China and Iran agree with.
The expansion of confrontations within the framework of the Arab-Israeli conflict tests Washington’s image as the world’s premier military power and its ability to support its two allies, Israel and Ukraine, in two separate wars at the same time.
In the short and medium term, Russia gains from the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, given its immediate impact on the Ukraine front. However, looking ahead to the long term and the potential for the conflict to broaden, this might not align with Moscow’s interests, particularly if Iran becomes involved in the confrontations. Such involvement could compel Moscow to lean toward one of the parties, which is something Russia currently aims to avoid. An escalation in intensity could even result in a direct conflict between Iran and Israel, risking the stability of the Russian presence in Syria.
Russia’s failure to achieve most of its declared military goals at the beginning of its military operation in Ukraine made it resort to a strategy aimed at prolonging the war, and it began to engage in a long war of attrition inside the Ukrainian arena, against the entire Western coalition.
Both sides in Ukraine war banking on time now
At the beginning of the war, expectations were of rapid success for the Russian forces, but that did not happen.
There is no doubt that the unparalleled Western support for Ukraine, and the intelligence coordination to confront the Russian attack, enabled Kyiv to repel Russian forces in several regions of the country. Moreover, the Western weapons and sanctions raised the morale of the Ukrainians, who felt that they were not fighting the war alone.
In addition, the false intelligence information and reports that reached the Russian leadership before the war were contrary to the reality inside Ukraine.
Despite the success of Russian forces in destroying a large sector of Ukrainian infrastructure, we do not witness their efforts to overthrow the Ukrainian government at present. It is also true that Ukrainian steadfastness in the face of Russia means exhausting Moscow and incurring more military and material losses. However, Russia is engaged in an attrition strategy, aiming to erode Western support for Ukraine, relying on several key factors, the most important being the economic crisis, the escalation of a global food crisis, and the division among Europeans regarding the diplomatic resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.
Today, both parties in the conflict in the Ukrainian arena are betting on the time factor to exhaust the other party. It seems that the world is watching an ongoing war without achieving its goals in the foreseeable future, and the return of the historical conflict in the Middle East to the forefront of events is in Russia’s favor vis-a-vis its Western opponents for the reasons mentioned above.
A new world order is in its early stages of formation, whatever the outcome of the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Western alliance, the Ukraine arena today is only one of its fronts. However, the question is about the nature of the next stage: Will the new world order be born completely? Or a premature or possibly deformed newborn?
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