Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict is crucial for its military presence. To support Vladimir Putin, Russia needs to reduce battlefield deaths and maintain its military presence in Ukraine. A disruption in weapons supply and diminishing commitment from European and US governments could help. A potential rival crisis in the Middle East could distract Ukraine’s allies, as Hamas’s incursion into Israel from Gaza has already distracted the US diplomatically.
The conflict could also divert military equipment to the Middle East, depending on whether Israel chooses to reoccupy Gaza. A war could potentially deplete Ukraine’s allies’ ability to sustain spending, as the potential Middle Eastern conflict or China’s Taiwan attack could outweigh the impact of ongoing hostilities in Ukraine. Russia’s diplomatic relationship with Israel is not clear, as Israel has toned down criticism of the Ukrainian invasion. Russia has become friendlier towards Iran, but Iran is likely to be the source of the military equipment used by Hamas to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system and invade the country.
Iran is likely to be the source of counterintelligence techniques that have allowed Hamas to avoid Israeli intelligence services. Russia has been selling intelligence techniques globally, and Iranian counterintelligence is likely informed by Russian practices. Russia has long operated multilevel diplomacy in the Middle East, maintaining positive relationships with competing and even warring nations. Putin has a history of hiding in plain sight but is actually revealing his plans and completing them.
At the annual Russian security conference, Putin spoke on October 5 about creating a new world order based on a “civilisation-based approach,” which would recognize local differences and communities of common interest. This approach is reminiscent of the Indian kibbutz, which emphasizes equality, common identity, community loyalty, and shared efforts. This rejection of Western individualism and a nod to Russia’s kindred spirit to developing nations is a significant aspect of his strategy.
In a recent speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin reframed the past 20 years as Russia’s efforts to solve global challenges, arguing that this was seen as obedience to Western norms. He emphasized the need for multiple sources of power and world views, rather than following Western patterns of economic exploitation and ideological domination. Putin cited China and India as potential sources of power and world views.
His invasion of Ukraine was not a threat to Russia but a response to Euroatlantic control of NATO and the EU. Putin’s approach emphasizes liberation from colonialism, which ordinary Ukrainians would dispute. He also highlighted the selective engagement of Nato powers with Arab nations, indicating Putin’s support for both Israeli and Palestinian claims. Putin is a beneficiary but not likely an author of the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, and he will not be disappointed if tension escalates further.
Russia benefits from the distraction it places on the upcoming US presidential election and the world order is already on high alert due to Ukraine, China, Taiwan, Serbia, and Kosovo. Despite military losses, time remains on Russia’s side for its invasion of Ukraine. Factors such as a change in US president, activist Congress, and US support for Israel in the Middle East will play a decisive role in ending the Ukrainian conflict. If the war continues in 2025, Russia will have the upper hand.