Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for the first time about the conflict in Israel and Gaza Tuesday, blaming the U.S. for failing to seek compromises in the region before the conflict unfolded.
Putin said he was in contact with both sides, adding that the U.S. had not taken the interests of the Palestinian people into account.
Experts had taken note of Putin’s muted response to the Israel-Gaza conflict since it broke out. The Kremlin has previously spoken out in support of Israel, Anton Troianovski wrote in The New York Times, but that relationship has deteriorated since Russia invaded Ukraine. Putin has little incentive to side with Western leaders to try to end the fighting in the Middle East, and he now needs Iran, an enemy of Israel, to supply Russia with arms, Troianovski notes.
Unlike many of its Western allies, Israel had taken a more reserved posture toward Russia since its invasion, resisting calls to send weapons to Ukraine and not imposing sanctions on Russia. In doing so, Israel took a ”tremendous diplomatic hit,” writes Atlantic Council fellow Vladislav Davidzon said. Putin’s neutral statement on the Israel-Gaza conflict should be a “watershed moment” for Israel, which is learning that attempting to placate Russia is a hollow concept, Davidzon argues.
The conflict in the Middle East will reverberate in Ukraine. Kyiv could have to compete with Israel for aid from the U.S., The Times’ Thomas Friedman writes. Ukrainians are now ”openly worrying that the new war will distract from their effort,” The Counteroffensive newsletter reports, as at least one Republican senator has already called for Ukraine aid to be diverted to Israel. Putin, meanwhile, has to be “smiling” over the chaos in Israel, Michael Tomasky writes in The New Republic.