In order to defend Ukraine from Russia, an aggressor and a war criminal, the European Union and the United States have framed their position.
However, according to experts in international relations and law, Israel’s use of the Gaza conflict undermines their moral high ground and weakens criminal charges against Russia.
According to Christian Bueger, a professor of international relations at the University of Copenhagen, when attacks on public infrastructure occurred in Ukraine, there was discussion about how they violated the Geneva Convention.
He told Al Jazeera, referring to Israel’s siege and subsequent raid of al-Shifa Hospital, where the lack of electricity, water, and medicine has put patients’ lives in danger. “Now we’re facing a situation where we are clearly beyond the borders of international humanitarian law,” he said.
That “shatters what we thought was the set of norms of how military operations should be carried out,” he said, opening up a discussion of what justified warfare looks like in our modern age.
The moral high ground is shrouded in fog for Ukraine’s Western allies, according to an editorial published by British think tank Chatham House.
The task of holding Russia accountable for its crimes in Ukraine is made more difficult by the political and legal ramifications of this.
Investigators from the UN and Europe have been documenting the alleged rape, torture, and summary executions of civilians in Bucha and other parts of Ukraine. The International Criminal Court (ICC), whose jurisdiction Ukraine accepts, will prosecute these alleged war crimes and atrocities.
The ICC accused Russian President Vladimir Putin and his child rights commissioner of ordering the war crime of kidnapping Ukrainian children in March.
The State of Palestine, which the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, referred to on Friday, is also being investigated for alleged war crimes. Israel doesn’t acknowledge Palestine or the ICC’s authority over what it deems to be its territory.
“The US and UK back Israel’s position.” According to Marko Milanovic, a professor of public international law at Reading University, “Yes, the ICC has jurisdiction over Russians who commit crimes in Ukraine, but no, it does not, so it would be very difficult for these states to argue.”
Several countries with a majority of Muslims and some nations in the Global South vehemently disagree with the US-UK perspective.
Five of them—South Africa, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Comoros, and Djibouti—asked Khan to look into and prosecute alleged Gaza crimes.
The more conflicted perspective of Russia’s actions by the Global South affects Ukraine further.
Ukraine has been spearheading an international effort to establish a special court to prosecute Russia for violating the UN Charter by engaging in an aggressive war. Ukraine must secure a two-thirds majority in the UN General Assembly in order to establish this court.
Milanovic told Al Jazeera that the non-aligned/Global South nations must support that court in order for it to have any chance of being even remotely legitimate and successful.
The West has lost any moral clout it once had to push for this new institution after Gaza, and the US’s support for Israel will make other nations less willing to do the same.
Israel’s counterattack on Hamas caused moral and legal ambiguity, which Russia quickly capitalized on.
Russia declined to support a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution denouncing the attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 Israelis, two days after the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.
Maxim Alyukov, a researcher at Manchester University’s department of Russian and East European studies who keeps an eye on Russian official language and propaganda, stated that “their goal is to portray themselves as peacemakers, and they can’t be seen as following the US lead.”
He claimed that according to Russian propaganda, “terrorists must be punished, but neither the country nor an Islamist group should be held accountable for the actions of the people.”
After al-Qaeda attacks on September 11, that could be interpreted as a subliminal criticism of the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, blamed the US in part for the most recent Middle East conflict.
Putin stated in late October, “I believe that many people will concur with me that this is a vivid illustration of how American Middle East policy has failed.”
They don’t appear to be worried about the deaths of Palestinians.
In a statement released by the Foreign Ministry on November 7 that also criticized Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Russia stated that it supported “a multilateral approach to the Middle East settlement issue.”
Alyukov summed up the Russian position by saying, “No one criticizes Israel, and there are double standards here because they openly criticise the fact that civilians are dying in Ukraine, but they don’t seem concerned that Palestine is dying.”
The Gaza conflict was described by him as “a gift to the Kremlin.”
According to experts, Russia’s position could weaken the rules-based international order that Western nations claim they are attempting to uphold. Many nations also concur that Russia has been accused of violating international law.
Will we steadfastly pursue our positive vision for the future, or will we allow those who do not share our values to drag the world to a more dangerous and divided place? US President Joe Biden questioned on November 18 in an opinion piece that was published in The Washington Post.
Despite the fact that its war in Ukraine has increased the cost of both oil and grain, Russia held a summit with African nations earlier this year in an effort to cultivate this region of the Global South.