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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Peres mission to Russia fails

Israel's President, Shimon Peres, was in Russia last week, where his undeclared mission was to prevent the Russians from selling arms to Syria and Iran.
The president’s statements in Moscow seemed to follow a tactical sequence: The Jewish people thanks you for winning WWII, the Jewish people appreciates our shared history, the people of Israel appreciate the contribution of Russian immigrants, Israel and Russia have a shared vision for peace, Syria and its missiles are a threat to this peace, and Iran is a threat to everyone’s peace.

By the time Peres was making the last of these empathetic, common-interest salvos, however, Medvedev was already in Damascus, taking in another country where Jews were given a place to live, though their history there “had its ups and downs” as well.

While it’s safe to assume that Peres does have a genuine appreciation for the cultural wealth of Russia and the tremendous contributions Russian Jews have made to Israel, the celebration of the Red Army victory over Nazi Germany presented a perfect opportunity to meet with Russian leaders behind closed doors, and prominently express his appreciation for all things Russian – in the hope that the flow of some of them, notably rockets and reactors, to Hizbullah and Iran respectively, would cease.

Unfortunately, however, the overt signs are that the Israeli president’s diplomacy, though ostensibly much appreciated by his hosts, has done little to sway them. On Tuesday, the very day that Peres donned his mortarboard at MGIMO, Medvedev met not only with Assad but also with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal. Later that day, the Russian president hinted at the possibility of building nuclear reactors in Syria and increasing Russia-Syria energy cooperation, and the next day he infuriated Jerusalem by indicating that Hamas should be brought into Middle East peace efforts.
Over the weekend, the full extent of the failure of Peres' mission became clear.

Mikhail Dmitriyev, head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Russia would sell MiG-29 fighter jets, Pantsyr short-range air defense systems and armored vehicles. He didn’t give any numbers, or provide any further details.


Friday’s statement about the arms sales was carried by Russian news agencies and confirmed earlier media reports.

Previous Russian sales of advanced anti-tank missiles and other weapons to Syria have irked Israel, which said some ended up with Hizbullah.

Israel and Russia have already been at odds in recent years over Moscow’s pledge to provide Iran with the advanced S-300 air defense system.


Earlier last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rebuffed a request by the US not to deliver the weapons to Iran.


An Israeli official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that the government had long been concerned by Russian sales of weapons in the region.

“We have raised concerns with the Russians as to their weapons sales to the region, at the highest level,” the official said. “We have seen Russian weapons that have been given and sold to different countries with terrorist groups.”

The official added that during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah was found to have Russian weapons.

“We think it is a problem when states that oppose peace and reconciliation and are part of the extremist axis receive military support” from countries such as Russia, the official said.
I don't believe that Peres can be blamed for this - given the amount of Russian mischief-making that has been encouraged by weakness from Washington, I doubt anything Peres said (and if you read the first link you will see that Peres said a lot of things that I am sure he had to hold his nose while saying) could have made a difference.


At 10:36 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Part of the problem is of course Israel's appeasement of a hostile Obama Administration has greatly reduced the leverage it has in seeking other allies. And so Israel - no surprise is receiving the short end of the stick from both major powers.

What could go wrong indeed.

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How's that "new Middle East" of your looking nowadays, Shimon?


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