Can Putin be a peacemaker in the Israel-Hamas conflict?

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed grave concerns on Friday regarding the anticipated Israeli ground offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, emphasizing that such an operation could result in “unacceptable” civilian casualties.
In televised remarks, Putin said, “The use of heavy machinery in residential areas is a complex matter fraught with grave consequences.Most importantly, the civilian casualties will be absolutely unacceptable.” He underscored the urgency of stopping the bloodshed and affirmedRussia‘s willingness to coordinate with constructive partners to achieve this goal.

“The most important thing now is to stop the bloodshed,” Putin said, adding his country was “ready to coordinate with all constructive partners.”

Russia has so far carefully denounced violence from both sides and focused on blaming the US for the conflict. “The fact that a large-scale tragedy happened there was the result of a failed US policy,” Putin said.
Putin, however, acknowledged Israel‘s right to defend itself in the face of an “unprecedentedly cruel attack.” He emphasized the need for collective endeavors to achieve an early ceasefire and stabilize the situation on the ground, expressing Russia’s readiness to collaborate with partners with constructive intentions.

Putin blames U.S. policy for Israel-Palestine violence, calls for a new approach

These carefully measured statements by Putin and his associates indicate Moscow’s attempt to maintain positive relationships with both Israel and the Palestinians. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov highlighted the importance of a “balanced approach,” enabling Russia to engage with both parties and potentially facilitate a settlement.
However, some analysts caution against taking Russia’s claims at face value. They argue that Putin stands to gain more by prolonging the conflict rather than seeking a swift resolution, especially concerning Russia’s strategic interests, notably in Ukraine.
As per a Business Insider report, Putin is playing a long-term strategy in Ukraine, where Russian forces invaded in 2022. He aims to weaken the commitment of Ukraine’s Western allies, who have provided substantial aid and weapons. Robert Dover, a professor of Intelligence and National Security at the University of Hull in the UK, suggests that creating a rival crisis, such as a war in the Middle East, could serve this purpose. Such a conflict could divert attention, diplomatic efforts, and even military resources away from Ukraine, particularly if Israel launches a land invasion of Gaza.

Putin’s plea for peace: Calls on Israel and Hamas to spare civilians amidst escalating conflict

Another significant factor influencing Putin’s decisions is the price of oil. Russia relies heavily on its oil exports to finance its campaign in Ukraine. In collaboration with Saudi Arabia, Russia has reduced supplies to increase prices. Instability in the Middle East, the world’s primary oil-producing region, could further drive up oil prices, the Insider report said.
“As oil prices rise, Russia can sustain spending on arms production and cover budget deficits,” Ann Marie Dailey, a policy researcher at Rand Corporation, told Bloomberg. “This situation gives Russia a short-term advantage.” Putin’s maneuvering establishes Russia as a powerful player in the Middle East, allowing the country to capitalize on the resulting geopolitical complexities.
Dover, the Hull University expert, told Insider that if Russia were to broker talks, it could boost its international credibility.
“Managing to broker some form of de-escalation brings Russia a little closer to the mainstream of international relations again, and allows it to make a claim — that would be very well received in India, South Africa, China, and so on — that it is a positive and engaged actor in the international system,” Dover told Insider.
(With inputs from agencies)

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