Entwined Wars: The Convergence of Conflict in Israel, Ukraine, and Beyond

Photo source: ABC News

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On the evening of Thursday, October 19th, President Biden made a rare address from the Oval Office in which he made his case for the American support of Israel and Ukraine in their respective conflicts. In his address, Biden drew stark comparisons between the situations in Israel and Ukraine: a terrorized populace, innocent lives lost, and democracy at risk. 

“What would happen if we walked away?” Biden asked the American public, “We are the essential nation.”

Indeed, for President Biden, this is clearly a conflict America cannot walk away from. Too much is on the line. Democracy is being threatened by authoritarian rulers such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Ayatollah of Iran, Ali Khamenei. Backing down could show other nations that the U.S. is no longer willing to protect democratic institutions. China has expressed its desire to match Russia’s expansionism through retaking Taiwan, a country America has sworn to defend. America’s actions may determine how far revisionist nations, such as China, are willing to go to pursue their goals. From a deterrence standpoint, Biden must demonstrate U.S. power. From an ideological standpoint, America is the bastion of freedom—it must protect democracy.

America, under Biden at least, won’t be cutting support for Ukraine and Israel any time soon. He’s in it for the long run, and there are no signs of slowing down.

Israel has no intention of pulling its punches either. They will not be satisfied until Hamas’ influence is completely obliterated and violent jihad is dismantled in the Gaza Strip. That could take more than a year. However, Israel’s war will continue and the U.S. will provide support for it into the foreseeable future.

It doesn’t look like Ukraine has any peace deal in sight either. The military’s spring offensive was supposed to force Putin into negotiation, but with every passing day, every American tank and Iranian drone shipped to the frontlines, and every trench dug up, the future prospects of the Russo-Ukrainian war look bleaker.

Biden knows that these wars will endure. And why did he compare them? He may realize that they’re not mutually exclusive. As seen historically from the Triple Entente of WWI, including Russia, France and the U.K., and the Tripartite Pact of Germany, Italy, and Japan in WWII, countries at war against a common enemy help each other out. And the longer wars go on, the more opportunity countries have to get involved in each other’s affairs.

In fact, we have already begun to see signs of alliance building between Russia and Iran and the gradual merging of the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine. Iran is selling Russia drones for its war against Ukraine and production is in full swing. In addition, Iran helped Hamas fighters prepare for their October 7th raid on Israel. All signs point to an Iran that is busy working with countries and armed groups to weaken the resolve of Western powers.

Russia is making multilateral moves too. Recent U.S. intelligence reports suggest that the Russian Wagner Group, a paramilitary organization that has fought alongside the Russian military in Ukraine, plans on supplying Hezbollah with air defenses to intercept Israeli aircraft. Hezbollah and Israel have experienced escalated conflict as a result of the war in the Gaza strip, and, similarly to Hamas, Hezbollah has received substantial funding from Iran. Moreover, Russia was among the countries that refused to condemn Hamas’ attack on Israel despite having historically strong ties with the Jewish nation. It is clear that Russian diplomacy is beginning to prioritize the war in Ukraine over its relationship with Israel. If Russia doesn’t want to lose Iran’s friendship—and drones—it will continue to align itself against Iran’s enemies.

Russia and its affiliates are taking risks in a war that has nothing to do with them besides its association with Iran, a useful ally. It wouldn’t be advantageous for Iran to bear further sanctions and a sustained pariah status through arming Russia for its widely condemned war in Ukraine. Russia will have to pony up a bit more than the drone sticker price.

In light of Russia’s increasing involvement with the war in Israel and its growing relationship with Iran, we may see a widening of conflict—perhaps even a formal military alliance between Russia and Iran. Iran has trained and funded Hamas due to its apparent contempt of Western states, especially the United States. Russia is fighting a war being funded by the same exact countries, thus making an alliance very suitable for the situation. Both states are heavily sanctioned by Western powers led by the U.S., so building cooperation together would benefit Russia and Iran not only militarily but economically as well. They’ve already begun taking steps towards increased economic cooperation, as Iran is set to join BRICS, an economic bloc that includes Russia.

Considering the obstinate course of the U.S. in its aid for Ukraine and Israel, the determination of both those countries to prevail in their respective wars, and the strengthening ties between Russia and Iran, there is a serious risk that these conflicts will evolve into something greater—a cooperation that will attempt to match NATO, the current Western military alliance. 

President Biden ought to be wary of the future. Russia feels as if it is fighting a war that will decide its very existence, with NATO at its doorstep and the non-negotiable red-line issue that is Ukraine. Iran cannot bear another day of the crippling U.S. sanctions, having experienced several protests due to the widespread poverty within the country. Perhaps Biden will not have to compare the wars involving Russia and Iran anymore—they may just merge into the same one.

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This article was edited by Sarah Shanahan and Natasha Tretter