One of the Biden administration’s key objectives as it simultaneously supports two friends engaged in ferocious wars is to keep both conflicts from spreading. The White House has so far been largely successful, as neither the war between Ukraine and Russia nor the one between Israel and Hamas have become regional conflagrations. But the risks have not abated on either front.
Exchanges of fire and other provocations in the region surrounding Israel have received a great deal of attention as the administration tries to balance its goal of preventing a wider war with the force needed to deter more attacks. U.S. naval forces have shot down missiles and drones launched by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah and Israel have been firing at each other across the Lebanon-Israel border. U.S. forces have come under assault more than 70 times in the region, with Iranian proxies in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere challenging U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts to contain the conflict.
In the meantime, tensions have been rising along Russia’s borders with several countries belonging to the European Union and NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose war in Ukraine has benefited from the global spotlight suddenly shifting to the crisis in the Middle East, appears to be taking advantage of the opportunity to engage in provocations against some of Russia’s neighbors.