150 days of war in Ukraine persist as Europe continues to fuel the conflict.

Yishai Gelb | 29.07.2022
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One hundred fifty days of war, and there is no sign of a slow down. On the contrary, the Russian forces advance slowly from the East towards Charkov and the South towards Odesa.

The Russians have occupied mineral-rich territory in Ukraine and much of Ukraine's shoreline, gaining control of Ukraine's export ability. The Ukrainians are doing all their power to fend off the Russian advancement; however, the continual Russian military replenishment due to Russia's export of fossil fuels to Europe is depleting the Ukrainian defenses. In addition, the small contribution of military equipment from the Europeans and Americans, as well as an additional $1 billion a day in revenue from Natural gas sales to Europe, are giving Russia an advantage.  

The war is not destined to come to an end any time soon. The Russians are looking forward to the winter to end the war with victory. As winter approaches, people will need more natural gas to heat their homes, thus increasing Russia's income of European money from natural gas sales. At the same time, there will be a massive humanitarian disaster in Ukrain where people will starve and freeze. This situation will force the Ukrainians to compromise and come to a deal or continue the war and face heavy losses and much misery from the population.  

Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine are a part of a long-term strategy to extend its borders Westward into Eastern Europe to give it strategic depth. Accomplishing such a task required Europe to tie Westen Europe with Russian sources of fuel to use as an economic weapon when needed. Putin successfully achieved this by linking Europe to Russian Gas, thus eliminating the possibility that Russia would be threatened by Western Europe, allowing Russian expansion in Eastern Europe.

Besides the natural gas sales, Russia still needs to find a way to save the rest of its economy by bypassing the Western sanctions. That is why Putin met in Teheran with Iranian and Turkish leaders. Iran is no longer a weak player on the world stage due to increased income in the aftermath of the nuclear deal signed in 2015; Iran can demand more from Russia in return for the help Russia needs. One of the demands is the gradual end of Russian support of Israel. Israel has a free hand from Russia to conduct military missions against the Iranian military buildup in Syria. Iran and Assad are demanding that Putin use his air defense system against Israeli aircraft, which enjoyed free access to Syrian skies up until now. 

Putin isn't so fast to comply with Iranian wishes since Putin does have interests in Israel. Firstly, a few Russian oligarchs are Israeli as well, putting pressure on Putin and his inner circle in favor of Israel. Second, Israel is a growing economic and military power gaining more influence in the Middle East. This influence can help Russia contain Turkey, which is a geopolitical rival. And third, Russia hopes that in the future, it can benefit from Israeli technology and a balancing power against American influence in the Middle East. 

A couple of weeks ago, Yair Lapid became the prime minister of Israel and came out with a statement that Israel supports Ukraine and condemns Russia for its aggression. These statements gave Putin the excuse to “punish” Israel by harming the Jewish federation's ability to work in Russia, thus making it harder for Russian Jews to leave Russia.

In conclusion, Russia is gaining the upper hand in the Ukraine war and will most likely end this war with a geo-political victory. His victory is due to a long-lasting strategy to tie down Western Europe by standing as Europe’s primary source of natural gas and overall bad foreign policy in the Western hemisphere. The lack of deterrence and bad deals with authoritarian states enrich the West's biggest rival countries, including China, Iran, and Russia.  

Dependence on energy from rival countries, enriching rival governments, and the lack of deterrence are a recipe for more aggression worldwide. As the US continues to decline and China gains influence in more countries, the balance of power will shift away from the West, and Israel will find itself in a peculiar situation. Israel will have to pick sides soon and play a more active role on the global stage.