Medvedev angry 311 .
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Russians have pledged that state-of-the-art weaponry they are insistently
marketing to Syria – despite entreaties from both Israel and the US – won’t end
up in Hizbullah hands.
This, regardless of the fact that during 2006’s
Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah deployed Russian-made anti-tank missiles that had
been supplied to it by Damascus. Some such missiles fell into IDF hands still
bearing original Russian insignia, which nobody had bothered
This and many more examples of blatant Syrian-Hizbullah
collusion prove that the latest Russian undertakings cannot be relied upon. We
don’t know why Russia makes these hollow promises. Surely, it knows that Israel
dare not take them seriously.
If anything, what the Russians continue to
do, vis-à-vis both Syria and Iran, detracts from Russia’s claims, and its
ostensible desire, to be a neutral force for peace. It also detracts from the
welcome impact of its apparent decision to cancel the supply to Teheran of
high-precision air-defense missiles.
Israel implored Russia not to sell
Syria advanced rocketry, like the P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles. During his
recent visit to Moscow, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly lobbied hard
against the sale. The Americans likewise did their bit, just as they had earlier
tried to dissuade Russia from beginning the startup of Iran’s only nuclear power
Hence, when it emerged that the Syrian transaction had not been
put on hold, Russia not only disdainfully slapped Israel, it equally rebuffed
Why would it do so? With the Cold War presumably long behind us,
one might have expected to see the emergence of a cooperative rather than an
obstructionist Russia. Yet Moscow’s behavior too often seems eerily reminiscent
of the defunct Soviet Union.
Instead of moving forward as a genuine
free-world democracy, Moscow can appear to be donning the trappings of democracy
while performing inconceivable stunts of realpolitik acrobatics. It’s not an
outright foe but neither is it quite the dependable friend. And it is very
obviously determined to stake its claim to superpower status by forging foreign
policies that, from these shores, sometimes appear to counter free-world
interests, Israeli interests and, when it comes to enabling Iranian nuclear
progress, even Russia’s own interests.
Evidently Moscow does not wish to
appear to be dancing to Washington’s tune. But there are times when it’s almost
as if Russia relishes being unpredictable and inscrutable. It canceled delivery
of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, yet persists in efforts to weaken
sanctions against the ayatollahs.
And the fact that the current American
administration is regarded in Moscow as naïve plainly only emboldens Dmitry
Medvedev and Vladimir Putin.
THE WEST, meanwhile, chronically fails in
its strategic assessments of post-USSR Russia. Western intelligence has tended,
especially initially, to exude unjustified optimism regarding the new Kremlin,
despite the decisive ongoing influence of ex-KGB officers, Putin
This is particularly significant in our context. In his book
The White House Years, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger astutely
observed that the USSR’s animus toward Israel did not arise from the Soviets’
hobnobbing with the Arabs, but, rather, that it was often the Soviets who
encouraged Arab antagonism and steered it forward with refurbished and
With the influence of former Soviet personnel still
rife, it is worrying to see signs of a Russian regression toward a revised
version of yesteryear’s Cold War, albeit in lower profile.
chumminess with prime terror-sponsors like Syria is a dangerous case in point,
especially given Syria’s open commitment to making its weaponry available to
The insistent equipping of Syria with Russian technology
cannot be explained away with promises that it won’t end up in terrorists’ hands
when all the recent evidence is to the contrary. The assistance with Iran’s
nuclear program is similarly irresponsible. It becomes ever-harder to avoid the
conclusion that Russia deliberately fishes in murky waters, looking to align
itself with countries inherently inimical to the West and thereby to consolidate
a global counterweight bloc.
Israel has important interests in Russia,
but it cannot afford to delude itself about the dangers presented by some of
Moscow’s other partnerships.
The latest arms deal with Syria is a
potential game-changer given our sensitive regional balance of power. So was
Russia’s fueling of Iran’s reactor in Bushehr.
And such moves are
intrinsically un-befitting conduct for a member of the Quartet, an international
body that purports to have the best interests of all would-be peaceful regional
players at heart.