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How is Russia Approaching the Gaza War?

Like Russia’s Ukraine campaign, Israel’s war on Hamas, the Palestinian resistance group, in Gaza has shown signs of a prolonged military engagement as Tel Aviv’s armed forces could not claim the Mediterranean enclave despite many air strikes and a continuing ground offensive.

Under intense pressure from the Western bloc, including economic sanctions, Russia aims to use the geopolitical fallout of the Israeli attack on Gaza to its own advantage, experts said.

US President Joe Biden has also equated the Russian attack on Ukraine with Hamas’s October 7 Operation Al Aqsa Flood saying that “Both Putin and Hamas are fighting to wipe a neighboring democracy off the map.”

“For [Vladimir] Putin, the Israel-Gaza war is viewed largely in the prism of Russia’s own standoff with the US. Given that the US has supported Israel’s position on Gaza, Putin has made the calculation to increase engagement with Israeli and US adversaries, including both Hamas and Iran,” says Eugene Chausovsky, a defence expert and a senior analyst at New Lines Institute.

“As such, we have seen Russia host delegations from Hamas and ramp up its contact with Tehran.”

Putin has linked Israel’s deadly use of force on Palestinian territory to a failure of the US to manage crises in the Middle East, he tells TRT World.

Tehran backs Hamas and has maintained close ties with armed proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Russia worked alongside Iran in Syria to prop the regime of Bashar al Assad.

“From the very beginning, Russia has seen the Gaza war as not only a military conflict between Hamas and Israel but also a new political move of the US in the Middle Eastern landscape,” says Yasar Sari, an academic and an expert at Haydar Aliyev Eurasian Research Center of Ibn Haldun University.

Moscow is concerned that the deployment of US aircraft carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in support of Israel is instead aimed at containing it, Sari tells TRT World.

Russia’s Gaza pivot

Stuck in the Ukraine quagmire on one hand and facing erosion of influence in the Caucasus and Central Asian region, Russia has trained its guns towards the US, says Chausovsky.

“This includes highlighting US criticism of Russian attacks against civilians in Ukraine just as Moscow paints Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as a violation of international law. As such, Russia’s approach on Gaza is very much enmeshed with its own geopolitical contention with the US and the various intersecting crises that this entails,” he adds.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hinted at Moscow’s policy towards Israel in a recent statement.

Moscow is fighting the same American “root of evil” in Ukraine, Putin said, adding that both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Russia-Ukraine battles “will decide the fate of Russia, and of the entire world, including the future of the Palestinian people.”

“Given Israel’s stance on Ukraine against Russia’s interests they can potentially take a more firm position against Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate use of military force against civilians,” says Gregory Simons, an associate professor at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University.

Like the Western bloc, Moscow advocates the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but it’s also careful not to anger the Jewish lobby, which can quickly remind the Kremlin of its past Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic legacy, says Esref Yalinkilicli, a Eurasia expert, who had been based in Moscow in the past.

“But the ongoing fighting in Gaza with so many civilian casualties is something which does not look like Russia can accept it as a normal military engagement of Israel,” Yalinkilicli tells TRT World. Moscow recently hosted Arab foreign ministers to discuss the Gaza conflict, increasing its diplomatic efforts to ensure a ceasefire.

A new world in making – according to Russia

Analysts also say that the Gaza war demonstrates one of the signs of global transition from US dominance to a multipolar world system, which powers like Russia and China have long sought to see coming.

Hamas has publicly expressed its willingness to develop strong ties with both Russia and China in the face of the US-backed Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza. Hamas aims to develop “cooperation with great powers China and Russia”, said Khaled Meshaal, one of Hamas’s leading figures.

Unlike the Western bloc, Russia and China do not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. Both countries also demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza unlike much of the West.

Many states in the UN supported their proposal, which also shows that the world has been “divided into two opposing camps”, says Sari.

Russia’s stance on Gaza at the UN signals that a cornered Moscow is trying to get out of isolation, he says.

“You can think of Hamas’s attacks as an attempt to prevent a reassertion of American power — and instead to continue pushing the world toward multipolarity,” wrote David Leonhardt, a senior writer for The New York Times.

Other analysts also say that some recent political and military events including Azerbaijan’s capture of Gaza indicate that a multipolar world is emerging.

Multi-alignment, which is replacing the Cold War era’s non-alignment movement of the Global South, can become a powerful stance across the globe, according to experts. BRICS, which many see as the new embodiment of the non-alignment movement, called for an immediate ceasefire unlike NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance.

As a result, the Russian stance on Gaza is not a coincidence because it helps Russia get closer to the Arab world, where the Palestinian issue resonates with the public greatly, according to Nikolay Kozhanov, a former Russian diplomat. “The Global South nowadays is important for Moscow because of the situation around Ukraine.”

The US-led ‘rules-based order’ has demonstrated itself “to be utterly hollow and hypocritical on Gaza and they have lost a great deal of soft power, credibility and influence globally,” Simons tells TRT World. He sees the brutally raging Gaza war as “one of the pivotal and key moments to potentially accelerate the decline of the US-led West.”

Russia-Israel alignment

The Kremlin has long held strong ties with Israel, which might be too much to sacrifice for the Kremlin, according to Yalinkilicli. “I doubt that Russia can go on a path of arming Hamas directly just like the West has armed Ukraine against Moscow’s offensive,” he says.

There are too many Israeli citizens in influential power circles of Russia, says Sari, referring to some pro-Putin oligarchs. Another big factor affecting Russia-Israel ties is the emigration of nearly 1.5 million Russian citizens of Jewish origin to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, adds the analyst.

Russia and Israel also appeared to have “a tacit agreement” on where Tel Aviv bombs in Syria. “Israel bombs airfields controlled directly by the Assad regime, but does not bomb airfields and bases under Russian supervision,” says Sari. Israel claims that its bombing campaign in Syria targets Iran-backed Shia militia depots and areas.

Another strong piece of evidence signalling the ongoing alignment between Israel and Russia showed itself when Netanyahu refused to host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who declared his unconditional support to Israel against Hamas, according to Sari.

“Israel and Russia try not to directly face up to each other in areas of confrontation that they consider vital for themselves.” This also means that Russia will not directly arm Hamas and other resistance groups against Israel, he says. But it does not mean that some Russian arms through Iran and its proxies might not have reached Hamas prior to the Gaza war, he adds.

Source : TRT World