Putin is looking at several events in the future.
How will the war in Israel will affect support for Ukraine? I’ll start with whether a ground operation will be launched in Gaza, because there is a risk of a major war. Simply put, three fundamental factors can influence the decision on a ground operation in Gaza. Whether there will be one, and if so, what kind of operation, scale, timing, etc.
The first factor to keep in mind is Israel’s preparation and ability to make this operation successful. This means gaining full control with minimal losses.
The second issue, which is moral, human, and emotional, is returning the hostages. If this operation begins and some of them are executed, especially on live TV (and we live in a media world), it will break the hearts and minds of many people. It’s not just the American hostages.
Third, it is a strategy. That is, Israel can enter Gaza. It has the capacity to do so. The question is how to get out. Israel was already in Gaza before 2005. Then it left. So what? Hamas won the elections with broad support and won the ensuing internal conflict in Gaza. I don’t see any sane, consistent strategy now that would give Israel a sustainable perspective in a ground operation.
The last thing is whether the Middle East, not only the Middle East, will explode, whether Hezbollah will join, Iran, or maybe someone else.
That is, the main players’ strategy now is to avoid escalation. They are doing this almost around the clock. This changes the focus of attention away from Ukraine, but does not make us less critical. It does not mean that support will be reduced. It’s just a redistribution of attention and an understanding that several different world events require attention. In his speech last week, Biden just linked Ukraine and Israel directly. He linked the logic that “we will defend democracies, we do not abandon our own, no matter what kind of democracies they are.”
In his speech last week, Biden just linked Ukraine and Israel directly
This is a complicated and controversial issue. Look at how many people are on the streets of Germany, London, and Paris in support of Palestine. This raises many, many questions. Against the backdrop of this difficult discussion about Israel, support for Ukraine is just as controversial.
But the issue of changing the focus, both media and political, is, of course, very difficult for us, and there are many risks associated with the fact that key players and decision-makers will still be primarily engaged in the Middle East. The way out of this is straightforward. Look back to Biden’s speech.
Reduce everything into one logic of the struggle of democracy against autocracy. Reduce everything to one logic and one support package, as Biden suggested. However, there are also risks for us. I hope a Chinese representative will attend the meeting in Malta on the peace formula. In addition to Ukraine and Israel, there is help for Taiwan in this package. Taiwan is also perceived by the United States as a democracy, unlike China. Just imagine what they think in Beijing and what strategies they are building. So, it will be very, very difficult to assemble this mosaic.
We have more than just the Middle East problem. We also have the issue of the impending Taiwanese elections. There will be presidential elections in January. This may be a point of no return for the Chinese leadership in the sense that they can politically influence the “evolutionary” return of Taiwan. So, there are a lot of risks that need to be taken into account. There is no need to avoid it. Yes, there are risks and challenges, but this does not mean there is a fundamental threat that Ukraine will be forgotten.
When all these people come out to rallies in support of the Palestinian people, it does not mean support for Hamas. Palestinians, in general, do not identify with Hamas. In the West Bank, there are entirely different political structures. There is even a conspiracy theory that when Hamas was born, the Israelis did not object to it because they wanted to create a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization. They may have even had a hand in it. I heard this from many people in Israel, the United States, and Europe. So, in fact, many people generally understand the Palestinians and do not identify them with Hamas. Demonstrations are definitely not support for Hamas. Many people condemn Hamas’s actions in terms of murder and crimes against civilians.
The Kremlin is benefiting from creating disorder in the West. Both Putin and the Russian leadership despise the West. They consider it decadent and incapable of fighting for the future. Moscow seemed not to believe that the West would actually support Ukraine. At first, they thought there would be no sanctions, then there would be no arms supplies, and then they thought the logic of limiting the price of Russian oil and Russian oil products would collapse. Yes, it all works far from perfectly, and we know this very well, but it works. This is a fundamental challenge for the Kremlin.
Today, Putin is looking at several events in the future. First, there are his elections. He is very focused on this. He wants to recreate himself within the regime. Many things are happening now on the frontlines, including Russia’s frantic attacks on Avdiivka. This is a logic that also reflects Russian domestic policy. Putin would love to come somewhere in Donetsk, where he hasn’t been, and say: I did something here. The second factor Putin is looking at is the American elections.
So these are key points that are important for him in the future. But the more disorder there is in the West, the weaker the West is, according to the Kremlin, the more it is exhausted. Therefore, any such protests, of course, play into the hands of the Kremlin. As for whether they will lead to a decrease in support for Ukraine, I have yet to see it. I see reasonably stable support in critical European societies, Germany, Spain, and France. The only problem is that support and sympathy do not necessarily translate into active action. Our task is not just to keep this sympathy, which is there and will not be given to Putin. Our problem is that this sympathy should not be passive. We need a proactive position. The West, especially Europe, has never been good at this. Therefore, making them proactive is the number one challenge for us in the coming months.
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