WASHINGTON – The wars in the Middle East and Europe benefit U.S. adversaries, particularly Russia and China, foreign policy experts said.
These conflicts put the United States in the difficult position of divvying up unprecedented amounts of military aid, including the White House’s recent request to Congress for over $100 billion, most of which would aid Israel and Ukraine. Experts said at a Wilson Center event last week that funneling U.S. resources to those conflicts has played to the advantage of President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The war in the Middle East puts pressure on the U.S. government to divide up its military aid among various allies, which could leave fewer U.S. resources to send to Ukraine. Less military help from the United States would assist Putin’s military campaign.
“When October 7th happened, Putin was probably excited because it was a good distraction for him,” said Jennifer Wistrand, deputy director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. “Less media attention, less military support and less humanitarian support [for Ukraine] would favor Putin’s position, in both the near term and the long term.”
China has not directly participated in either war, which benefits China economically and lets it focus on other diplomatic priorities, such as building alliances in countries located below the equator, according to Robert Daly, director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. China has a clear strategy.
“It’s ‘wait, pose as a peacemaker,’ watch the United States get stretched, and use that stretching of the United States, in particular its support for Israel, to build support in the Global South,’” Daly said. “But, China is going to be patient.”
Xi hopes the wars divert U.S. attention away from economic competition with China, which he sees as a “truly existential threat,” Daly said.
The Biden administration had managed to balance economic competition with China with sending military aid to Ukraine and Israel, Daly said.
“This has been a singular achievement of the Biden administration, first with Ukraine and now with the Middle East as well, is that they have somehow managed to keep three balls in the air to keep a focus in the long term on the strategic competition with China,” Daly said.
While Russia and China may benefit now, the high price of war has sapped resources from other parts of the international market, which some experts warn could drag down the global economy.
“When you look at the rippling economic effect, there is the real danger that we see a global shock both from the war in Ukraine and the war in the Middle East,” said Robin Wright, distinguished fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and the Wilson Center.