Duma official: Israel-Russian relations strong - if US doesn't intervene

Russian lawmaker makes comments after US questioned Israel's decision not to take a position on Ukraine crisis.

PM Netanyahu with Russian President Putin 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
PM Netanyahu with Russian President Putin 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
US pressure could undermine Russia-Israel relations, Alexander Romanovich, vice chairman of the Committee on International Affairs in Russia’s Duma, implied in a briefing to Israeli reporters and academics Monday.
“Nothing can harm the good relations between our two countries, as long as another power doesn’t intervene. I won’t name it,” Romanovich said.
The lawmaker’s comments came several weeks after Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman made it clear that Israel plans to refrain from taking a position on the Ukrainian crisis.
The policy comes from a concern that it would anger Moscow and have a ripple effect on Israeli security concerns in the region, like Syria and Iran.
Washington, however, does not back the position, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki saying last month that the US was surprised when Israel skipped a vote on the matter in the UN General Assembly.
Romanovich, a member of the opposition, said he cannot understand Western suspicions that Russia will try to invade Ukraine, saying commentators “are ignoring what Putin said clearly.”
“Nobody wants to cross the border into Ukraine. Our troops are in Crimea, not Ukraine,” he said.
Romanovich also said the border between Russia and Ukraine was never finalized after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The vice chairman also recounted debates in the committee about Ukraine and Crimea, saying that the Duma Ethics Committee punished many of the legislators for using foul language.
As for Iran and Syria, there are no plans to change Russia’s policy, Romanovich said.
“Iran is clearly an important country in US and Russian policy,” he said. “This geopolitical element is what determines what happens with Iran and around it. So far, no one canceled our diplomatic competition, and there are interests at stake.”
Still, Romanovich said, the most recent easing of sanctions took place because of America, not Russia.