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Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing a dangerous game of defying American efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons in order to promote Russia as an global superpower, Likud MK Natan Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post in an interview at his Knesset office on Tuesday.
Speaking while Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was en route to Moscow for meetings with Putin and other Russian officials, Sharansky said Olmert should persuade Putin to take a leading role in the international effort to prevent a nuclear Iran.
"They have a very dangerous idea that by not cooperating with America in the case of Iran, it can show America why they have to take them seriously," Sharansky said. "That's the game of the Russians. We have come to the moment where [countries must decide] whether they want to play a serious role in the future of the free world. [The policies of Russia] are definitely not constructive."
Sharansky said Russia had a "tense relationship" with the United States and that Putin's desire for Russia to "prove itself" impacted his country's policies toward Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and Syria. He said Israel was suffering as a result of this Russian desire for international recognition as a superpower.
Asked what he would advise Olmert to tell Putin, Sharansky said he should be "frank, open and uncompromising." He said Olmert should not blame Russia for all the nuclear technology that has reached Iran but should encourage Putin to take proactive steps in the future.
Sharansky said that Olmert should tell Putin: "We understand and respect your desire to see Russia as one of the leaders of the world. As one who is concerned about the future of the world and the position of Russia, you have to be part of that front.
"In the past it meant not losing Iranian markets. But now it's a critical moment. Everybody else in the world - the US, France, Holland, Germany and England - all understand the importance of a united stand. It's very important for freedom in the world," he continued.
Sharansky said Olmert should warn Putin that his relations with Israel were dependent on Russia ending its support of countries like Iran and Syria.
"We shouldn't try to look for excuses for Russia," Sharansky said. "We should make it very clear that it is extremely dangerous for us and we cannot keep on having good relations while [Russia] has this clear policy of open support for our enemies who want to destroy us."
The full interview will be published in Friday's Jerusalem Post
Ori Raphael contributed to this report.