The Gaza war has fuelled geopolitical trends that compromise Ukraine’s position, and with which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy must contend if Ukraine is to survive.
In autumn 2023, Ukraine’s spring offensive ran up against the hard realities of Russian defences. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was hitting other obstacles, too, as his diplomacy felt the impact of shifts in geopolitical trends favouring Russian President Vladimir Putin. They included the rise in the strategic assertiveness of middle powers; the strengthening of like-minded groups of countries who felt disempowered under the post-Second World War dispensations; the promotion of nationalist agendas; and a revalorisation of authoritarian government, of which Putin was the arch-practitioner. That was before 7 October, when Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel and Israel’s ruthless response dislodged Ukraine from the top slot on the global-security agenda. While the course and outcome of the Russia–Ukraine war remain unclear, the Gaza war has undoubtedly fuelled geopolitical trends that compromise Ukraine’s position and which Zelenskyy must contend with if Ukraine is to survive, let alone win.
The wars in Ukraine and Israel are manifestly different in character and seem to belong on split screens. One is a war of imperial conquest waged by an expansionist military superpower against a sovereign state, the other the fight of a sovereign state against non-state actors and terrorists. But they do share common features and, problematically for Zelenskyy, certain dependencies. Both wars are being fought over sovereignty and territory. The United States and Iran are involved as suppliers of military assistance in each conflict. In both cases, vetoes have neutered the United Nations Security Council and rendered UN agencies powerless. Secondary similarities include the unusually high level of citizen forces mobilised in both Ukraine and Israel; the disruption of global liquefied-natural-gas supplies now that the Gaza war has drawn in the piratical Houthis; and a mediating role for the Arab Gulf states, in particular Qatar, a rising geopolitical entrepreneur.