America’s Adversaries Are All Connected
A day after murderous terrorists invaded Israel, critical infrastructure connecting frontline NATO allies was shut down as a “result of external activity” — possibly foreign sabotage — according to Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. “Russia sympathizes with us,” senior Hamas official Ali Baraka said in a Sunday interview on the government-controlled Russia Today TV. “One war eases the pressure in another war.”
While Finnish and Estonian officials are still investigating the disruption of a pipeline and communication cable, the timing is likely no coincidence. If it resulted from foreign action, then the foreign agents took advantage of the fact that world attention was focused elsewhere to carry out an operation they had likely already planned. Did Russia have prior knowledge of Hamas’s invasion plan?
Russia has long weaponized its monopolistic position as Europe’s oil supplier to extract political concessions from dependent neighbors by cutting off energy supplies. The Balticonnector Pipeline began operations in 2020, connecting Finland to the rest of Europe via Estonia and reducing Russia’s oil leverage over both countries.
Russia would clearly benefit from disabling the pipeline. Both countries are pro-western states on Russia’s border and view the USSR’s primary successor state as their greatest threat. In April, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland officially joined the anti-Russian NATO alliance, which Estonia joined in 2004.
Yet, according to Baraka’s interview in a Russian propaganda outlet, Russia was notified prior to the assault. “In order to keep the attack secret and successful, the different factions and our allies did not know the zero hour,” he said. But Hamas did update Russia after they inquired about the Hamas attack and its intention. If Russia is responsible for the Balticonnector sabotage, they implemented the plan opportunistically.
Russia was not the only ally Hamas informed of its plans on Saturday. “After half an hour [of commencing the attack], all the Palestinian resistance factions were contacted, as were our allies in Hezbollah and Iran,” said Baraka. He added that they even notified Turkey — an increasingly rogue member of NATO — and met with them only three hours into the operation.
“Our allies are those that support us with weapons and money,” explained Baraka. “First and foremost, it is Iran that is giving us money and weapons.” For years, Western intelligence officials have known that Iran was providing military training and logistical help. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said last year that Iran had provided the group with $70 million in military assistance. On Thursday, the U.S. government and Qatar agreed to block Iran from accessing $6 billion in funds the U.S. had unfrozen as an appeasement measure.
Baraka also pointed to Hamas’s close affinity with Hezbollah, another radical Islamic terror organization funded by Iran, but which is based in Lebanon instead of Gaza. Hezbollah fired rockets at northern Israel on Tuesday, in an effort to divide Israel’s forces and limit the safe places where refugees from southern Israel could be temporarily relocated. Baraka also boasted that “the Arab and Islamic people … are standing by us.” Even if he presumes too much when speaking for all people who identify as Muslims, these are not idle words; on Sunday, Palestinian sympathizers staged demonstrations in support of Hamas’ barbarous tactics across the West.
“Even Russia sympathizes with us,” added Baraka. “Russia is happy that America is getting embroiled in Palestine. It alleviates the pressure on the Russians in Ukraine. One war eases the pressure in another war. So, we are not alone on the battlefield.” He said that Russia, a major exporter of weapons, even gave “a Russian license to produce Kalashnikov bullets in Gaza,” allowing Hamas to procure additional ammunition for Russian-made machine guns despite international sanctions.
That’s quite the international coalition supporting a terror group, but it features the usual suspects. Nations like Iran and Russia are not friendly toward the U.S. and would jump at any opportunity to knock the U.S. down a peg.
Consequently, Hamas’ attack did not happen in isolation. “We have been preparing for this for two years,” Baraka said. In other words, Hamas began preparing to launch a major assault against Israel in the immediate aftermath of America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some unconfirmed reports have even suggested that Hamas used weapons U.S. forces left behind in Afghanistan, which evidently made their way across the Middle East through illicit arms trading. When America’s foes see us as weak, they calculate that it is time to strike.
The same actors — and even more of them — are aligned on Russia’s side of the conflict in Ukraine. After Ukraine stalled Russia’s first assault and ground down its war machine with Western aid, Russia turned to other bad actors to restock its supplies. There have been reports that Iran, China, Cuba, North Korea, and even South Africa are supplying Moscow with military equipment and personnel.
In October 2022, the Pentagon said they knew that Russia was using Iranian drones in Ukraine, and they believed Iranians were on-site to help the Russians operate them. In February, the Biden administration considered releasing intelligence that showed China was supplying arms to Russia. Customs records obtained by Politico this summer show that China has shipped body armor and other military munitions to Russia. In May, the U.S. ambassador to South Africa accused the allegedly neutral country with supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia, via a sanctioned cargo ship it allowed to dock at a naval base near Cape Town in December. In September, the White House said North Korea and Russia were “actively advancing” arms negotiations, and satellite photos last week detected a near-quadrupling in rail traffic along the North Korea-Russia border. Even distant Cuba has gotten involved, smuggling hundreds of soldiers to fight in Russia’s war.
In addition to military assistance, American rivals on the world stage also cooperate economically. An organization of second-tier economic powers, known as BRICS (for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) will more than double its membership in January 2024 when it officially admits Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E. The organization, which includes some of the largest economies in Africa, Asia, and South America, is actively discussing ways to move international trade away from the U.S. dollar and towards other national currencies. BRICS expansion is significant because it indicates that even U.S. military allies, like India, or economic partners, like Saudi Arabia, are increasingly willing to cooperate with adversaries the U.S. has tried to isolate.
Such interconnection in foreign policy is not a new development. Independent powers have combined into military coalitions since at least the time of Abraham (see Genesis 14:1-2). In the century between Napoleon and World War I (1814-1919), international politics particularly focused on the alliances between five to nine so-called “great powers,” which were ever-changing to maintain a precarious balance of power. This provoked a string of conflicts, culminating in two devastating world wars.
After World War II, only two great powers remained (the U.S. and the Soviet Union), which spearheaded two worldwide coalitions (countries not aligned with either side were dubbed the “third world”). Due to the invention of nuclear weapons, the two great powers did not risk an all-out war, but they still struggled together in an economic Cold War and a series of proxy wars over influence in other countries — Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Afghanistan.
When the Soviet Union collapsed after four decades, the U.S. found itself in the rare position of a global hegemon — a world power with no equal. The conflicts of this period — two Iraq wars, Afghanistan, Serbia — reflect America’s ability to go anywhere in the world and do whatever we wanted, always dealing with asymmetric opponents. In the early 2000s, President Bush could call out by name an “axis of evil,” consisting of three countries, for the whole world to shun.
But shifting alliances and changing power balances have changed the global situation once again. China’s decades-long buildup and Russia’s resurgence have placed the U.S. on the defensive in far-flung zones of influence. Part of this is from not recognizing the threat. America has largely let China’s military buildup and global friend-buying projects go unanswered, and the U.S. has become consumed with internal divisions, which other nations may have played a role in aggravating. We stopped playing the game, while everyone else was playing harder than ever.
Whatever the reason why a growing coalition of global adversaries is arrayed against America, a world in which the U.S. is not the all-dominant power is actually just a return to equilibrium, from a historical aberration. Most Americans today can’t remember anything different, but for most of history geopolitics has been a delicate balancing act, or very bloody. American ingenuity and freedoms can go a long way, at least with good leadership. But we can’t count on always being the unchallenged champion in an adversarial arena that incentivizes the rise of challengers — especially when those challengers can combine together.
The takeaway is that America cannot afford to view one hostile power or one national crisis in isolation. What is currently happening in Israel will affect the war in Ukraine, the security of Taiwan, and even the possibility of major terror strikes against American targets.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.