Vladimir Putin’s Existential Struggle against the West

From very early in its history, Israel found itself aligned with the U.S. against the Soviet Union, which armed Syria and Egypt so long as they fought the Jewish state, cultivated the PLO, and unleashed the global anti-Zionist propaganda campaign that remains with us even after the USSR is long gone. Jerusalem and Moscow now have good relations on the surface, but the Kremlin protects Iran and fights alongside it in Syria. More importantly, perhaps—as Leon Aron explains—the modern-day Russian regime is anti-American to its core:

Contrary to the prevailing view, Vladimir Putin’s domestic regime is not merely a corrupt autocracy founded on propaganda, political manipulation, and repression. . . . Over the past two decades he has ceaselessly and systematically reshaped Russia’s national identity: the ways in which Russians see themselves, their country, and their history. He has rewritten, updated, or reawakened the elements of his country’s legitimizing myths—what he calls “spiritual bonds” (dukhovnye skrepy)—and deployed them in ways that proved deeply satisfying to tens of millions of followers.

Along the way, Putin has recovered the defining elements of the cold war and made them part of the national credo: the conflict between Putin’s Russia and the West is not about normal competition among large states and occasional frictions about specific issues. It is about an incompatibility of values. Just as the Soviet leadership did, the Kremlin today perceives the struggle with the U.S.-led “West” as ubiquitous and global, whether in Georgia, Syria, or Ukraine. This contest is permanent, and the West’s effort to undermine Russia, [according to Moscow propaganda], is relentless.

Exceeding Soviet propaganda in stridency is a sign of a disturbing difference between the two cold-war regimes. . . . [T]he Politburo elders had little to prove and could rest on their laurels. Having known firsthand the horrors of [World War II], they were wary of provoking a direct confrontation with the West. . . . By contrast, since 2014, when Putin recast himself as a wartime president, war or threat of war has been the key to his regime’s legitimacy. What my Russian colleagues called “militarized patriotism in peacetime” became the leitmotif of the Kremlin propaganda orchestra.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Cold War, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy