The Czar's Long Game
Amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, global actors are recalibrating their grand strategy, and Russia is among them. The Russian government’s impartial stance on the current conflict is much more than its conventional approach to Israeli-Palestinian affairs. Behind the curtains, The Kremlin hopes to benefit from the unexpectedly flamed tension in Palestine.
Since Russia’s offensive in Ukraine began, Vladimir Putin has embodied a strategy of “Running out the clock.” The strategy assumes that the united Western support behind Ukraine will crumble if the war comes to a dead end and Ukraine fails to deliver a conclusive victory rapidly.
Putin’s strategy resembles Alexander I’s tactic against Napoleon Bonaparte during the French invasion of Russia. Like Putin, the Czar believed that the time was at their side and dragged Bonaparte into the Russian hinterland by ordering his forces to retreat until that famous winter arrived. However, has the contemporary Czar’s strategy worked out as it did for Alexander?
So far, no. In the first stages of the war, Russian officials expected that a cold winter in Europe without a Russian natural gas supply would cause an energy crisis that would eventually force European governments to reconsider their Ukraine strategy; yet, that winter had not arrived. On the contrary, Europe had one of the mildest Winters it ever had.
Similarly, the Russian government hoped that internal disputes within NATO, such as Turkey’s approach to Sweden and Finland’s membership bid for the organization, could break the united front against Russia but that did not happen.
However, the recent increased Republican opposition in the U.S Congress against foreign aid for Ukraine implies that Vladimir Putin’s strategy is not dead and that the ongoing conflict in Palestine can help the Kremlin. There are at least 100 House Republicans who could be considered 'Ukraine skeptics.'
If Iran’s involvement in the conflict gains momentum, an exacerbated energy crisis is inevitable since in that case, the United States would have to impose harsher sanctions on the Iranian economy. This would benefit the Russian Federation as the United States might be forced to reconsider its strategy toward Russia.
It is worth noting that in the first stages of the Ukrainian war, the United States had to reformulate its approach to Venezuela and Iran – two important oil producers – because of the imposed sanctions on the Russian economy. Additionally, a new battlefront in the Middle East would force the United States to reallocate its capabilities in a world order where the conflict is not concentrated but dispersed. Time is on the side of Vladimir Putin and his bet can still pay off.