There can be no capitulation to Russia or to Hamas.
ERIC S. EDELMAN and DAVID J. KRAMER
Oct 18, 2023
The world’s attention has rightly turned to Israel following Hamas’s heinous terrorist attack that killed hundreds of innocent citizens. Israel’s response and the ongoing war will dominate the headlines for the near future.
At the same time, Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine has cost almost ten thousand innocent Ukrainian lives since February 2022. Russia has been credibly accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even genocide against Ukraine. It also has a tightening alliance with Iran (on whom it depends for crucial military supplies like loitering munitions) as well as a longstanding relationship with one of Iran’s proxies in the Middle East, Hamas.
Although we have no direct evidence of a Russian hand in the Hamas assault on October 7, senior delegations from Hamas have met in Moscow with senior Russian officials in recent months, and Moscow refuses to recognize Hamas as a terrorist group. The Kremlin will undoubtedly welcome the distraction Hamas’s attack has provided from the war in Ukraine.
The United States must increase support for Israel, but that assistance should not come at the expense of support for Ukraine. Israelis and Ukrainians, in some respects, face comparable threats to their freedom, their land, and to their lives from terrorist actors. In some respects, Russia and Hamas share similar goals: to destroy their free, democratic, open neighbor thriving on land they unrightfully consider their own.
While there may not be a military solution to the problems between Israelis and Palestinians, Israel has no choice but to destroy the leadership of Hamas and its military and organizational capabilities. Similarly, Ukraine has no choice but to defend its land and seek military victory. Negotiating with a terrorist organization like Hamas, much like negotiating with the genocidal regime in Moscow, is pointless. For Israel and Ukraine alike, there is no compromise position between existence and oblivion.
Yet some in the West would argue that we need to pressure Ukraine into territorial concessions and compromise with Russia. Such an approach—despite Vladimir Putin’s manifest disinterest in any negotiated end to the war—would consign millions of Ukrainians to repressive Russian control and lend Russia a pause to rearm and come back to fight another day.
Furthermore, American-imposed negotiations would ignore the views of Ukrainians, who by large margins oppose any negotiated agreement with Moscow. A recent poll found that more than 90 percent of Ukrainians, despite all the destruction and suffering, oppose territorial concessions to Russia. A different survey revealed that 60 percent of Ukrainians support fighting on until the war is won (and 91 percent define victory as requiring the return of all Russian
occupied territory to Ukrainian control, including Crimea). But those pushing for an armistice or deal deny Ukrainians any agency or their territory or their future. So far, none of the advocates of enforced negotiations has explained by what mechanism the United States and its allies could get the Ukrainians to stop fighting.
The moral clarity with which so many around the world, with different ideologies, representing different political movements and parties, condemned Hamas’s brutal attack on Israel should be an inspiration for moral clarity on other issues as well. Ukraine should not and will not be forced to surrender its men, women, children, sick, poor, and elderly to the brutalities of Russian oppression to fulfill a fantastical notion of American realpolitik.
Eric S. Edelman is counselor at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the co-host of The Bulwark’s Shield of the Republic podcast. He was under secretary of defense for policy from 2005 to 2009.
David J. Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the George W. Bush administration, is executive director of the George W. Bush Institute and chairs the board of the Free Russia Foundation.