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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

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