The Ukraine crisis has confronted three Middle Eastern countries – Turkey, Israel and Iran – as well as India, with serious political dilemmas. For different reasons, they face the conundrum of how to strike a balance between opposing Russia’s aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine and maintaining good relations with Moscow. They’ve walked a tightrope so far, but now that the Russian invasion is in full swing, they need to show their hands more clearly.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country is a NATO member, has forged good working relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past few years despite their differences in Syria and past conflicts. He has turned to Moscow to counter what he perceives to be America’s and Western Europe’s unfavorable treatment of him, particularly following the failed 2016 coup against him. and its severe repression against the opposition. He purchased Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles much to the chagrin of the United States, which in turn removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter program.
During this time, Erdogan has maintained good relations with Ukraine and firmly supported the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the run-up to the Russian invasion, he called for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and avoided any direct criticism of Russia. Now, however, he must decide whether to side with Turkey’s NATO partners or pursue an independent path that could further hurt those partners.
Putin’s actions also put Israel in a difficult position. He is concerned about Russian aggression and has good relations with Ukraine, whose president is Jewish. But he was careful not to upset Moscow. Putin has backed Israel despite the Jewish state’s brutal treatment of Palestinians under occupation. Yet he has also politically and militarily backed the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in a de facto alliance with Iran, which Israel views as a major regional enemy. Israel needs Moscow’s understanding to strike at Iranian and Iranian-allied Lebanese Hezbollah forces in Syria.
Although Moscow has sometimes criticized Israel for violating Syrian sovereignty and airspace during regular bombardments of Iranian and Hezbollah sites, it has been reluctant to confront Israel as long as its missions have not caused Russia any problems on the ground. ground. Israel would like to see this status quo maintained.
Iran has supported Russia’s Ukrainian adventure, as expected given Tehran’s dependence on Moscow for arms supplies and coordinated actions in Syria. Beyond that, Tehran needs Moscow’s support in ongoing talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump canceled in 2018 and his successor Joe Biden wants. rejuvenate.
This does not mean that Tehran trusts Russia very much; on the contrary, the two countries have experienced bitter moments in their historical relations. But Tehran sees advantages in not criticizing Moscow over Ukraine. Yet in the process he risks provoking American discontent with the nuclear talks unless he changes his position from indirect to direct dialogue with the United States.
India found itself in a very delicate foreign policy situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing Hindu government has developed close relations with Washington, which has led India to join the US, UK, Japan and Australia in the Quad alliance, which is widely seen as an anti-China measure. However, New Delhi also has very close defense cooperation with Russia, which is a major arms supplier to India. It is mainly for this reason that Modi has so far taken a similar stance to Erdogan’s on the Ukraine conflict – essentially avoiding taking sides, albeit in a phone call with Putin, he called for an “immediate cessation of violence”.
Modi is coming under increasing pressure, at least indirectly, from fellow Quad members, who have strongly condemned Russia’s actions and imposed sanctions on the county. Today, following the Russian invasion, New Delhi is under even greater pressure to adopt a clearer position. If it tries to please Moscow, India will likely be seen as a very weak link in the Quad, and if it takes the position of the Quad, it will likely jeopardize its relations with Russia.
The Ukrainian crisis is indeed globally multidimensional. While it was easy enough for most Western countries to oppose Russia, the same cannot be said of the states that find themselves caught between the West and Russia.