Eastern Europe

Why Putin Is Supporting Hamas

Image by Hadi Mohammad

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The Russian government this week came out in favor of Hamas in the Israeli-Arab conflict in Gaza. With a large percentage of Israel comprised of Russian Jews, this position is curious.

However, if you understand Putin’s desire to only act in Russia’s interest in the face of global war, the position makes perfect sense.

In the Soviet era, the USSR built a legacy of support for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its Arab allies against Israel. It’s worth recalling that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, head of Fatah, studied in the Soviet Union, and in 1982 defended his dissertation titled, “The Relationship Between Zionists and Nazis” at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies. However, following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia quickly discarded its overt pro-Palestine position and under Putin, Moscow adopted a complex policy of pragmatism in the Middle East, trying to maintain good relations with a range of warring parties: Iran, Israel, the Arab states, Fatah, Hamas and Hezbollah, reported Russian independent news outlet The Bell.

Russia has a greater interest than ever in seeing an escalation in the Middle East. For the first time since Feb. 2022, the war in Ukraine dropped down the global news agenda, and after the Hamas raids, Russia itself ceased to be public enemy No. 1. 

Russian TV propaganda is already trying to exploit the situation to extract maximum gain for Russia and the Kremlin’s worldview. Sunday’s edition of the country’s main weekly political show, Vesti Nedeli, devoted an entire segment to the “fake news” allegedly being spread by pro-Israeli Western media outlets. Meanwhile, NTV’s main political program described the same “fake news” as an “Israeli Bucha,” referring to the Russian propaganda stance that the Russian army’s slaughter of civilians in towns near Kyiv was faked. Another segment in Vesti Nedeli was dedicated to Putin’s long-standing claim that Ukraine is arming terrorist groups with the weapons it receives from its Western allies.

Russia hardly played a significant role in preparing the Hamas attacks on Israel, but without doubt the Kremlin is one of the main political beneficiaries. The emergence of a new burning global issue, especially one that will inevitably preoccupy the US, is bad news for Ukraine and the rest of the world. The Middle East is yet another front for the conflict between Russia and America, and the risk of further escalation between them is increasing.

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