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Biden, Xi taking lumps for allies’ bad behavior

The United States and China are divided by many things, but the world’s two leading powers have one problem in common: Each of their presidents has trapped himself into supporting a close ally that has invaded a neighbor and whose forces are committing every day what many consider to be war crimes.

Each president has used threats to try to persuade the ally to behave better. So far, neither Joe Biden nor Xi Jinping has been successful.

Many readers might imagine that America’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza raises issues rather different from China’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine — especially as China is rather happier about the consequences of Russia’s war than America is about the consequences of Israel’s.

Yet both Israel and Russia are killing civilians in large numbers and making threats that could lead to the widening of their wars. In each case, the ally’s actions are putting the superpower in an uncomfortable position.

There are differences. America was supplying weapons to Israel until May 9, when President Biden ordered those arms shipments to be halted while China has not apparently been shipping weapons to Russia.

Israel, of course, invaded Gaza in retaliation for the deadly and hostage-taking attack on it on October 7 last year by the Hamas military organization that has governed Gaza since 2007, an attack that formed part of Hamas’s violent campaign to end Israel’s occupation of what Hamas sees as Palestinian territories since 1967 – and, indeed, to end Israel’s very existence.

On the other hand, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022 with a brutal and unprovoked attack, having previously seized the province of Crimea in 2014 – all aimed at reversing Ukraine’s independence, which had been agreed and