Oct 11, 2023 - Politics & Policy

White House blasts Putin for failure to condemn Hamas

Putin during a visit to Israel in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The White House issued a blistering response to Vladimir Putin's claim that U.S. policy is to blame for the Hamas attack, saying the Russian president "has no credibility when it comes to the loss of innocent life."

What they're saying: "That fact is reinforced by Russia's sickening failure to condemn Hamas' abhorrent attack, as well as their dishonest attempt to 'both sides' this tragedy," White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told Axios in an exclusive statement.

  • "Israel is unequivocally the victim of horrifying terrorist atrocities and has every right to defend itself," Bates added, echoing an emotional speech Biden delivered Tuesday.
  • "Any leader should have the integrity to call Hamas' behavior what President Biden did yesterday: "unadulterated evil."

Why it matters: Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the unfolding war in Gaza are the two biggest foreign policy crises of Biden's presidency. The nexus between the two conflicts has grown increasingly strong in recent days.

The big picture: Together with China, Russia is one of the only non-Muslim countries that has not condemned Hamas, despite the close relationship Putin has fostered with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders over the past 20 years.

  • Putin has said on numerous occasions that Israel's security is a priority for him, citing the more than 1 million Russian-speaking Israelis.
  • But rather than express condolences for Israel or condemnation for Hamas, Putin's first comments on the terrorist attacks were aimed squarely at the U.S.
  • "I think that many people will agree with me that this is a vivid example of the failure of United States policy in the Middle East," Putin said Tuesday, accusing Washington of ignoring Palestinian interests.

Driving the news: Pro-Russian commentators have reacted to the Hamas attack with "veiled glee," the New York Times reports, believing the outbreak of war could sap Western support for Ukraine.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — one of the first leaders to call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has voiced similar concerns and is seeking to visit Israel in a show of solidarity, as Axios first reported.
  • The White House is considering asking Congress for an emergency funding request that would package military aid to both Ukraine and Israel, in addition to funds for Taiwan and U.S. border security.

Between the lines: In another sign of how entangled the two conflicts have become, Russia has grown increasingly dependent on Iran — which funds Hamas — for military drones used to attack Ukraine.

  • Russia has been holding formal talks with Hamas for years, including hosting official Hamas delegations in Moscow.
  • Since the war in Ukraine began, Israel has provided Ukraine with humanitarian aid but no lethal weaponry — fearing a clash with Russia that could harm Israel's security interests in Syria.

What to watch: While Biden has had four calls with Netanyahu since the crisis began, Putin had still yet to call the Israeli prime minister as of Wednesday — four days after Hamas launched its attack.

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