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Middle East conflicts overshadow Ukraine war

Middle East Conflicts Overshadow Ukraine War.

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Ever since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, the world’s attention has swung away from the nearly two-year-old war in Ukraine. Recent United States (U.S.) actions in Yemen have once again forced global media to shift away from the conflict in Eastern Europe.

“This world order was, and will be, an ever-living fire, kindled and extinguished in measures.” An ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, wrote some 2500 years ago. Indeed, after Russia and Ukraine signed the Minsk-2 Agreement in the winter of 2015.

The Donbas War suddenly stopped making headlines, although the two sides continued fighting low-scale positional warfare. However, the global media no longer paid attention to the situation in Eastern Ukraine. Instead, all eyes were on Syria, where Russia launched a military intervention in September 2015.

Now that the West is concerned with conflicts in the Middle East, international media coverage of the Ukraine war has dropped markedly. On the ground, Russian and Ukrainian forces are fighting a de facto positional war of attrition. At the same time, the world is more focused on developments in Yemen, Israel, and Iran than on the ongoing Russian invasion of the Eastern European country.

At the same time, Western policymakers are divided over the level of support for Ukraine. The war-torn nations’ neighbors – Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland – indirectly sabotaged Kyiv’s war efforts by refusing to provide weapons to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

On January 17, 2024, Germany rejected a proposal from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU)—parties on transferring long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine. At the same time, the European Union is having a hard time approving the € 50 billion special fund for Ukraine. In other words, Western military and financial support to Ukraine looks highly uncertain.

Also Read: Geopolitics complicate Pakistan-Afghanistan relations

However, that does not mean that the Kremlin will use the opportunity to resolve the conflict in its favor. At this point, Russia does not have the capacity and combat effectiveness to launch another large-scale offensive. There are no reports of significant troop movements in Western Russia or Belarus, which indicates that the Kremlin, at least for the time being, aims to preserve the status quo in Ukraine.

However, the problem for Moscow is the fact that with missile and drone attacks alone, Russia cannot achieve its goals in the Eastern European country. To win the war, the Kremlin would have to completely change its approach vis-à-vis Ukraine, which is something that Russian policymakers do not seem willing to do. As a result, Moscow and Kyiv will continue fighting a long war of attrition, where both sides will suffer heavy casualties.

However, for the West, at least for the foreseeable future, the situation in the Middle East will have priority over the war in Ukraine. It is unlikely that Western powers will completely stop arming Kyiv.

Great Britain has recently said it would provide the largest delivery of drones to Ukraine, most expected to be manufactured in the United Kingdom. Such a move will not have a decisive impact on the outcome of the war, but it will almost certainly help Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russian forces.

London began delivering the British-made Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Kyiv in the spring of 2023. It has reportedly already forced Russia to start making plans for the relocation of its Black Sea Fleet from Crimea to Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia. In the Middle East, on the other hand, despite harsh rhetoric that comes from Yemen’s Houthi forces.

And other Iran-backed militias, as well as Houthi strikes on various ships in the Red Sea. Not a single American warship was sunk. Moreover, there is no visual confirmation, including satellite images, of destroyed American military bases in Iraq and Syria, despite Iranian proxy militias’ attacks that reportedly take place daily.

Thus, Iran’s allies’ actions in the region do not seem to represent a severe threat to the U.S. military. As a result, Washington will continue to play the role of a significant global actor in the Middle East. Washington is aware that Iran is not ready for a confrontation with American forces in the region. Washington also knows Iranian proxies will unlikely get the green light from Tehran to inflict dramatic losses on the U.S. military in the same way that Ukraine is doing to Russian forces.

On the other hand, American and British airstrikes on Yemen will almost certainly not force the Houthis. To stop attacking their ships in the Red Sea. But neither will Ukrainian strikes on Russian assets in Crimea. Crimea forces the Kremlin to end the conflict and withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

In the coming months, the West will likely attempt to handle the Ukraine and Middle East wars. For its part, the Kremlin is expected to provide its Western partners with “security guarantees.” It will not raise the stakes in Ukraine as long as the U.S. and its allies are preoccupied with the situation in the Middle East and with its internal problems. The world order will continue to ignite and extinguish in alternating measures.

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