Letter From the Editors

Emotions ran high this week both on Capitol Hill and in Luxembourg as American and European officials tackled two bones of contention: a familiar one (Ukraine aid) and an unexpected one (the Israel-Hamas conflict). In fact, many commentators and politicians have signaled that the sudden and explosive conflict in Gaza has pushed Ukraine to the back burner of the global agenda. In Washington, lawmakers debated the idea of tying funding for Israel and Ukraine into a single package: While the Biden administration’s proposal to do just that was (unsurprisingly) met with enthusiasm by Democrats, it was generally panned by Republicans (also unsurprisingly).

“While aiding both Israel and Ukraine has broad support in both houses, some Republicans are wary of linking funding for the two countries because of differences within their own party,” writes Kommersant’s Yekaterina Moore. For instance, Sen. James Vance accused the Biden administration of “using dead children in Israel” to secure Ukraine funding.

The EU foreign ministers’ meeting was no less divided, prompting Hungary’s Peter Szijjarto to point to “Ukraine fatigue” in Europe. His statements were promptly denied by his Finnish counterpart, Elina Valtonen, who said: “Despite the situation in the Middle East, our focus is not shifting at all. We expect increased support for Ukraine.” The meeting was also marred by a démarche by European Commission employees against commission head Ursula von der Leyen. In a letter signed by over 700 people, including some official representatives in foreign countries, von der Leyen is accused of “unconditional support for one of the parties” in the Israel-Hamas war – namely, Israel. This didn’t prevent von der Leyen herself from openly comparing Hamas to Russia and Israel to Ukraine – so perhaps Szijjarto spoke too soon when he claimed the Ukraine war wasn’t relevant anymore?

As if trying to prove the EC head right, the Kremlin hosted a Hamas delegation this week to discuss the crisis in the Middle East. Few details emerged about the talks, and the Russian Foreign Ministry limited itself to perfunctory statements that the “regional agenda was thoroughly discussed.” In fact, other figures in Russia’s political arena also donned their poker faces this week – for instance, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. The perennial party chief chose to play hard to get with the Kremlin by coyly deferring his presidential bid announcement. This prompted rumors that Zyuganov won’t be taking the stage in the 2024 dog and pony show. Considering that the LDPR and its leader Leonid Slutsky have been basking in the official media spotlight, experts say that the Communists are unhappy about being “condemned outright to third place,” writes Nezavizimaya gazeta. As for Zyuganov’s foot-dragging, “Either he is unable to agree on honorable conditions for a future defeat, or he hopes that some scenarios can be managed without his participation.” After all, Gennady Andreyevich is no spring chicken – he may be looking to “preserve his health.”

Of course, as Andrei Kortunov points out in his opinion piece, youth is not exactly in vogue on America’s political Olympus. Comparing and contrasting the 1968 and 2024 US presidential elections, he points out that in 1968, the oldest contender was Hubert Humphrey – at 57. “Against this backdrop, Joe Biden, who turns 81 next month, or Donald Trump, who will be 78 at the time of the election, appear less presentable, to say the least.” But age isn’t the only major difference between the two elections, he contends: “The indomitable romantics” of 1968 like Robert Kennedy and Humphrey “are being replaced by calculating cynics, while strategists and visionaries are repeatedly ceding to tacticians and smooth operators.” But perhaps it’s not too late for true leaders to emerge in America, Europe and the rest of the world. After all, trying times often produce some of history’s greatest trailblazers. In the words of Khalil Gibran, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls.”