What’s in Russia’s global game of Chess for Israel?

Over these last few days, we have been on the precipitation of historic developments which center around Russian President Vladimir Putin’s determined decision to haul Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries back into Russia’s sphere of influence. This is a well-calculated move with a clear strategy behind it, accompanied by a strong will to do whatever it takes, be it economically or militarily, including the risk of a direct confrontation (even if not a military one) with the United States .

Considering past precedents — Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Syria — combined with the high-quality intelligence the US is sharing publicly with the rest of the world, it would be safe to assume that the Russians will soon carry their strategic plan into effect and bring about a regime change in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. If such a goal is achieved, Russia would challenge the US’s status as the global hegemon.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden, and a convoy of Russian military vehicles on the Ukrainian border

Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Joe Biden, and a convoy of Russian military vehicles on the Ukrainian border

Photo: Reuters, AP, Gettyimages

Putin’s decision probably stems from his vision of restoring Russia’s glory back to the days of the Soviet Union and his assessment that the US and the West are currently in a historic low point that would allow him, in tandem with China as a rising power, to create a multivalent world order.

Although Russia risks harsh economic blowback, it seems like the Russians have taken this into account and are convinced they can recreate their latest successes and pick the fruit with the most extraordinary historical meaning for them — regaining control over Ukraine as part of their vision of Greater Russia.

Meanwhile, Russia is also a dominant factor alongside the US and the West in achieving an agreement to restrain Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon (Vienna talks).

On the Moscow-Beijing strategic axis, the Chinese seem to take a more cautious approach, as they always do. However, the Chinese and Russian presidents are elevating the comprehensive rapprochement between the two countries against their common rival — the US All while assuming that Europe is an ally with limited power.

It is safe to assume that if the Russian plan to take over Ukraine pans out in one way or another, it may also entail dramatic consequences for Israel and the Middle East. The Iranian threat to Israel and other Arab countries in the region will only grow.

Iran is developing impressive offensive capabilities intended to damage strategic civilian infrastructure in Israel and Arab countries, while also entrenching itself in failed states across the region.

If an agreement is reached, Iran would get carte blanche to keep building itself militarily with unprecedented economic capabilities at its disposal as a result of sanctions being lifted. In addition, the agreement will also delay (significantly) the development of its military nuclear capability, but won’t prevent it.

On the other hand, in the absence of such an agreement, Iran will continue building its might unhindered.

Either way, Iran will benefit from the escalating rivalry between the US and the Russian-Chinese strategic axis, which sees Iran as an ally against the Americans.

However, this situation can also produce opportunities for Israel. The US may come to the conclusion that there is no alternative to the Middle East as a strategic asset vital to its national security, and as a result, it will slow down its efforts to pull out of the region.

The US will continue to rely on oil from the region and will provide massive support to Israel and Arab countries in the region. In addition, Israel will keep expanding its force and rely more heavily on the alliance with the US It is also safe to assume that it will further bolster its strategic security ties with the Sunni Arab countries that are impressively able to maintain their stability.

Of all the developments and events in the region, it seems that the Arab countries see Israel as a strategic partner, especially after it joined the United States Central Command — an American framework that oversees a variety of military and intelligence alliances between Middle East countries. This achievement is of exceptional importance to Israel’s national security.

Paradoxically enough, the common Israeli-Russian interest to rein in Iran’s influence in Syria may remain unchanged as Russia is interested in maintaining its position as the dominant force in the country. But this requires Israel to act prudently about the Ukrainian crisis.

Bottom line is the Ukrainian crisis could accelerate help old and new threats alike but it could also generate some positive outcomes for Israel. Therefore, Israel must consider both timelines.

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