The impact of the war on Gaza isn’t limited to the risk of throwing the region into a regional fire.
Rather, it also affects the global balance of power, draining European and US resources, while at the same time relieving pressure on Russia and offering new opportunities to China.
In this context, The Wall Street Journal says that it’s difficult to predict the long-term impact of this witnessed explosion in the Middle East.
It depends, first and foremost, on whether Israel will ultimately succeed in its stated goal of annihilating Hamas, which is the main military and political force in the Gaza Strip, which is highly doubtful by many experts.
At the same time, another critical issue is whether Israel’s diplomatic relations in the region and the international standing of its Western backers will endure in light of the high numbers of civilian casualties in Gaza and the looming atrocities if an urban war is waged in the densely populated enclave.
But for now, Hamas’s October 7 operation al Aqsa Flood, which killed some 1,400 Israelis, is a gift to America’s main geopolitical adversaries, namely China, Russia, and Iran have long sought to undermine the international order that the United States supports, and these countries are now exploiting the confusion in the United States.
“What we are witnessing now is part of shifting global order,” said former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who is now running for president of Finland.
“When the United States leaves power vacuums, someone will fill in”.
There is no doubt that the United States is trying to assert its presence in the Middle East, presenting its role as an indispensable partner to Israel and major Arab countries through shuttle diplomacy and military deployments, a connection that enjoys support from both the Republican and Democratic parties and dispels the feelings of isolation that have been strengthening in recent years.
However, Russia is perhaps the most notable beneficiary of the widespread disruption; In referring to the increasing number of Palestinian martyrs, Moscow criticized what it described as the hypocrisy of Western governments, which strongly condemned what the Russians did against civilians in Ukraine, but expressed only a slight condemnation of Israel’s actions in Gaza, if any of these governments condemned Israel at all.
Russian President Vladimir Putin compared Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip to the siege of the Russian city of St. Petersburg, then called Leningrad, during World War II.
This, in essence, actually equates the Israelis with the Nazis.
Such language, which is a stark departure from the once warm relationship between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, comes as part of Russia’s diplomatic efforts to position itself as the leader of the global movement against Western “neocolonialism,” even as it pursues a colonial war to invade Ukraine.
“Any conflict that draws some attention away from Ukraine is very much in Russia’s interest,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister.
The Russians may not have started it, but they have a great interest in prolonging the conflict in Israel for as long as possible.
“This will be a victory for the Russians both tactically – in Ukraine – and strategically, and strengthens their narrative against the Western world”.
China has also embraced the Palestinian issue in a way it hasn’t done for decades.
Its relations with Israel, which were previously friendly, have become deteriorating.
Despite Beijing’s repeated calls for the need to combat terrorism, while suppressing the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, China clearly refrained from using the word “terrorism” to describe Hamas attack, which Israel didn’t like at all, even despite the claim that the Israeli authorities confirmed that 4 Chinese citizens were killed in the attack, and that Hamas took 3 other Chinese hostages.
“The crux of the matter is that justice has not been achieved for the Palestinian people,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday, October 12, in his first public statements since the beginning of Hamas Operation al Aqsa Flood.
China watchers say that while Beijing is bracing for a potential clash with the United States over the future of Taiwan, it’s benefiting from Washington’s attention once again diverted by the crisis in the Middle East.
“What is important for China is China’s interests, and the most important thing for China is that its relationship with the United States, the way China will weaken the United States and the image of the United States,” according to Antoine Bondaz, a researcher and China expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) in Paris.
He explained, “They will try to portray the United States as the broker of instability, and China as the broker of peace.
“China’s goal is to present itself to developing countries as an alternative, as a more attractive alternative”.
The operation launched by Hamas also deals a blow to China’s main rival in Asia, India, which has become closer to Israel in recent years.
In September, the United States and India announced a transit corridor linking India, the Middle East, and Europe that will pass through the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel, and become a competitor to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
But the talks to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel – which are a key element in completing this plan – were halted due to the war on Gaza, and doubts loom over the future of these talks.
“India has invested a lot in the Middle East in general, especially with Israel and major Arab countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” said Ashok Malik, director of the Indian branch of the Asia Group consulting firm and former political advisor to the Indian Foreign Minister.
“Normalizing relations between Israel and progressive Arab countries that seek to use technological and economic opportunities for modernization is certainly something India encourages, not only for the sake of economic opportunities, but also as a broader political construct”.
Many European countries believe that in addition to straining regional relations and diverting attention away from Ukraine, an escalation of the war could also cause an energy crisis, potentially hindering alternatives to Russian gas and oil coming from the Middle East.
The bloodshed in the Middle East also poses the risk of renewed violence throughout the world.
The streets of European capitals were already flooded with huge pro-Palestine rallies at the beginning of this week, with some protesters chanting slogans supporting Hamas’ goal and even calling for the annihilation of Israel.
“Whenever something of this severity happens in the Gaza Strip or in Israel, it has consequences in Europe,” said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations… What we are witnessing now is the intersection and intertwining of different theatres… What will be Europe’s main stage in the coming years? Will it be the Middle East? Will it be Ukraine? Will it be Caucasian? What about the problems with Iran? The acceleration of the crises is astonishing, and for Europe it means having to make harsh adjustments”.
Russia is certainly counting on the West’s fading interest in Ukraine.
If the war in the Middle East expands to include Lebanon and then perhaps Iran and the United States directly, the already diminished military support and resources allocated to Ukraine may become even more scarce, a risk that Kiev has stated.
Speaking to Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said, “If the conflict is limited in time, that is, a few weeks, then in principle there is nothing to worry about, but if the situation continues, it’s quite understandable that there will be specific problems given the fact that Ukraine won’t be the only one that needs to be supplied with weapons and ammunition”.
To this point, little of the military support that the United States has rushed to Israel has been of the kind that Ukraine needs.
“The Israel Defense Force is a very Western-style army, with air firepower, which can be addressed more easily,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, CEO of Vienna-based military consulting firm Gady Consulting.
On the other hand, the Ukrainian army remains a force with a Soviet legacy, and the majority of its firepower is on the ground, which makes it much more difficult for the United States to support it.
The greatest danger facing Ukraine in recent weeks has been the reluctance of some Republican representatives in the House of Representatives to allow additional US support for it.
The crisis in the Middle East may in fact remove the hurdle, given that the Biden administration is seeking to send a package of military aid to Israel along with the aid directed to Ukraine.
Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a former US ambassador to NATO, said, according to Arab Post, “It’s more likely at the moment that we will get a large funding package that includes Israel, which means that if you want to vote… Against Ukraine, you have to vote against Israel as well, and no one intends to do that”.
Overall, he added, “the United States should be able to support Israel and Ukraine, while maintaining its commitment to Taiwan”.
He added, “We can do things at the same time… We’ve the ability, and we are the global power capable of doing all three things”.
Mostly, the crisis in the Middle East is also a reminder of how important America remains to the region and the world.
China announced its entry into the region’s politics in March when it brokered an agreement to restore diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but for the time being, with the increasing risk of a regional war, China is hiding from view, with the United States rushing to send two aircraft carriers and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken making visits around the region, aiming to contain the conflict.
“China’s primary influence in the region has been access to its markets, access to its investments… This influence is its economic power… They don’t yet have hard power in that region, so no one is turning to the Chinese to figure out how to solve their problems,” according to Gordon Fleck, the chief executive of the Perth USAsia Center at the University of Western Australia.