How the current conflict over the aggressive actions of Russia in the Ukrainian crisis affect the Middle East remains a serious issue. While Israel has maintained a cordial relationship with Russia, it has also stayed out of the fray over the situation in the Crimean Peninsula. However, the entire Middle East might not be able to escape the conflict. The jury is still out.
The Obama administration and much of Europe are back peddling fast from any relationship with Putin and Russia. Currently, President Obama is focused on isolating Putin and cutting off his economic ties through the imposition of harsh sanctions. While pundits have been critical of Obama’s response as weak, many forget that these very actions brought Iran to the negotiating table. Sanctions are slow, but anything but ineffective. They certainly keep American soldiers off the battlefield while the screws are tightened.
At the same time, worsening relations between Washington and Moscow could have a negative impact on the Middle East. The hope of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians could be negative affected if Putin throws his weight behind the Palestinian Authority (PA). Moreover, the nuclear disarmament dialogue with Iran could also be harmed if Russia makes a radical move.
Is this possible? Sure.
America has completely backed away from any concern not to offend the Kremlin. The quest for an international consensus against Russia is now also reaching toward China’s participation. The Europeans are skittish about possible damage to their still fragile economic situation. At the same time, the United States maintains considerable stature and forcible situation in the region. Unless Putin backs away from his expansionist tastes, Washington has written him off as a partner in future agreements. Putin may be arrogant, but he is not stupid. Ultimately, he must recognize the price he is paying for returning to Cold War propaganda and maneuvers.
The new sanctions imposed this week hit at the pocketbook of Putin’s inner circle. Next in line is Mr. Putin’s billfold. While his global investments have not been easy to uncover, the government is feverishly pursuing them. The international rumor is that Putin has stockpiled investments that make him on of the richest world leaders. Recent media investigations suggest Putin has significant investment in Guvnor, the fourth-largest oil trader. Moreover, Putin has been tied to Sturgutneftegaz, another large oil company. You can bet the USA is running down all of these leads.
Is this worthwhile? Don’t forget Hitler’s grab of Europe began with a parallel situation in the controversial Sudetenland region after the end of World War I. Such expansionism cannot be tolerated. Let’s hope it doesn’t backfire in the Middle East.
An Update on Israel
Change is in the air.
A number of incidents have occurred lately that didn’t make headlines in America. They aren’t earth shaking events, but might help you keep abreast of the times are unfolding. Change occurs in the Middle East at the speed of light. Consequently, the more we know, the better we are to judge the situation and make sound judgements.
Were you aware that Russian President Vladimir Putin dropped in for a visit this summer? While the occasion was more of a state formality with a dedication of a war memorial, it is interesting that the country with a hard history of antisemitism should have the newly elected president drop by for a chat. My guess is that the stop-by represents a recognition of the importance of Israel in the world scene and a concern for an attack on Iran (one of Russia’s allies). If so, Putin got an earful. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres made it clear that in their view nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranians remained a threat to Israel and the world. Putin said nothing, but got the message. However, there’s no change with Vadim.
Russia continues to oppose more sanctions against Iran while supplying weapons to Syria (calling them defensive armaments). They have also used their veto power to shield the Assad regime.
While in Israel, Putin helped unveil a monument to the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany. Such remembrances are important because of the enormous price the Soviet Union paid in World War II. Over a half million Jews fought in the Soviet Army and 120,000 were killed. The idea for the monument began with Netanyahu two years ago when he proposed the commemoration to Putin.
On a different front, the former financial adviser to Yasser Arafat Muhammad Rashid revealed that Fatah had a secret bank account in Jordan amounting to $39 million. When Arafat died, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world with a monthly allowance to his wife in Paris of $100,000 a month. Three billion dollars disappeared and has not been found to this date. Rashid stated that only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and two of his associates could access the account. He challenged Abbas to admit this fact because he had longed denied the existence of such an account. After a long-standing battled with the PA leadership, Rashid has threatened to expose corruption and scandal involving Abbas.
Change? Well, the covers are being thrown back. Seems the Palestinian Authority continues to deal under the table just as Arafat did.
Here’s another surprise for you. East Jerusalem Arabs are increasingly applying for Israeli citizenship. Forty-six years ago, the Six Day War (Yom Kippur War) exploded and the citizenship of East Jerusalem shifted. Because King Hussein claimed the rights to the West Bank and the PLO called these Arabs Palestinians, they ended up in effect non-citizens. Today, 260,000 east Jerusalemites are still non-citizens. A high number of this group were born in Israel, speak Hebrew, and have been virtually absorbed into Israeli society. Today an increasing number are convinced no change will every occur and are applying for Israeli citizenship. The idea of a Palestinian may never be resolved. The status quo isn’t relevant to this group.
Change is moving right along.