Russia Sees Middle East Conflict as Strategic Opportunity Amid Ukraine War

Written by Jeppe W

Dec.19 - 2023 1:40 PM CET

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The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East has become a significant point of interest for Russia, as outlined in Nikita Smagin's analysis. According to Smagin, Russia views the situation as advantageous, offering political benefits and affirming its stance on the Western-centric system of international relations.

The war in Ukraine initially united Western countries in their stance against Russia. However, the Israel-Hamas conflict has revealed divisions, particularly in the European Union, regarding their position on Israel's right to self-defense.

This has been further compounded by societal and state-level disagreements, including protests in various cities and reported discontent among U.S. officials with the White House’s pro-Israel stance.

Moscow perceives these divisions as potentially weakening the West’s united front against Russia, particularly regarding Ukraine. The focus on the Middle East conflict may distract from the situation in Ukraine, potentially affecting the West’s sustained support for Kyiv.

Furthermore, Washington's pro-Israel position could undermine the moral justification of the West's support for Ukraine in the eyes of many in the Global South. The contrasting reactions to civilian casualties in both conflicts have led to perceptions of double standards, impacting the credibility of the moral arguments against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s longstanding view of international relations as driven by state interests rather than morals or ideologies seems to be reinforced by these developments.

Moscow benefits from the continuation of the Middle East conflict, which diverts attention and resources from its actions in Ukraine.

However, the situation also poses risks for Russia. If pro-Iranian forces become involved in the Gaza conflict, it could complicate Moscow’s position, given its ties with Iran and involvement in Syria.

Choosing sides in a potential Iran-Israel war would have significant implications for Russia’s Middle Eastern strategy and its intervention in Syria.

Domestically, the Kremlin faces challenges in balancing its Middle East policy with public opinion, especially following incidents like the anti-Semitic pogrom in Dagestan. Nationalism and ethnic issues within Russia remain sensitive topics that require careful handling by the Russian leadership.