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Putin sees political, economic upside to Israel’s war with Hamas

Russian President Vladimir Putin waited three days before commenting on Hamas’ massacre of Israelis, which happened to take place on his 71st birthday. When he did, he blamed the United States, not Hamas.

“I think that many will agree with me that this is a clear example of the failed policy in the Middle East of the United States, which tried to monopolise the settlement process,” Putin told Iraq’s prime minister.

It was a further six days before Putin spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer his condolences for the slaughter of around 1,200 Israelis. Ten days after that, Russia said a Hamas delegation was in Moscow for talks.

Putin, say Russian and Western policy experts, is trying to use Israel’s war against Hamas as an opportunity to escalate what he has cast as an existential battle with the West for a new world order that would end US dominance in favour of a multilateral system he believes is already taking shape.

“Russia understands that the US and the EU have fully supported Israel, but the US and the EU are now the embodiment of evil and cannot be right in any way,” Sergei Markov, a former Kremlin adviser, wrote in his blog, explaining Putin’s need to differentiate himself.

“Therefore, Russia will not be in the same camp with the US and the EU. Israel’s main ally is the United States, Russia’s main enemy right now. And Hamas’ ally is Iran, an ally of Russia.”

Moscow enjoys an increasingly close relationship with Tehran – which backs Hamas and whom Washington has accused of supplying Moscow with drones for Ukraine which is locked in a grinding war of attrition with Russia.

Hanna Notte, a Berlin-based Russian foreign policy expert, told the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center she thought Moscow had dropped its earlier, more balanced position on the Middle East and adopted “quite an overt pro-Palestinian position”.

“In doing all of this, Russia understands very well that it aligns itself with constituencies across the Middle East and even beyond – in the Global South, in their views on the Palestinian issue where the Palestinian cause continues to resonate,” she said.

It is precisely those constituencies which Putin is seeking to win over in his drive for a new world order that would dilute US influence.

“The most important way in which Russia stands to benefit from this crisis in Gaza is by scoring points in the court of global public opinion,” said Notte.

Russian politicians have pointedly contrasted what they say is the carte blanche that Washington has given Israel to bomb Gaza to Washington’s punitive response to Russia’s own war in Ukraine, where it says it does not deliberately target civilians even though thousands of civilians have been killed.

Senator Alexei Pushkov said the West had fallen into a trap of its own making by exposing its own double standards over how it treated different countries depending on its self-interested political preferences.

“The unequivocal support of the United States and the West for Israel’s actions has dealt a powerful blow to Western foreign policy in the eyes of the Arab world and the entire Global South,” Pushkov wrote on Telegram.

Russia also sees the crisis as a chance for Moscow to try to grow its clout in the Middle East by casting itself as a potential peacemaker with links to all sides, said former Kremlin adviser Markov.

Moscow has offered to host a regional meeting of foreign ministers and Putin has said that Russia is well placed to help.

Andrew Osborn, "Putin sees political, economic upside to Israel’s war with Hamas," Business recorder. 2023-11-18.
Keywords: Political sciences , Policy experts , World Order , Public opinion , Foreign ministers , Foreign policy , War , Telegram , Alexei Pushkov , Vladimir Putin , Global South , United States , Russia , Ukraine , Gaza , Moscow , Tehran , Israel , US , EU

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