Shall We Dance?
November 14, 2011
By Darlene Casella
Shall we Dance? On a bright cloud of music Vladimir Putin bows to Israel and the former Soviet nations as he asks “When the last little star has left the sky, shall we fly or say goodbye? Will you be my new romance? On the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen, shall we dance, shall we dance, shall we dance?”
President Barack Obama is changing the political structure of the Middle East and Eurasia as he makes announcements about Arab Spring and the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jihadists wait for the Obama time line. Russia and other countries pay close attention to America’s apparent temporary strategic interest in the Middle East. Fear of U.S. abandonment is shifting alliances.
The American Administration turned its back on President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. American credibility dropped, sending a tsunami message to the Middle East.
One of the new discourses is the relationship between Israel and Russia. Twenty percent of Israelis came from the USSR. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is a native of Russia. There are three “Russian Parties” in the Knesset, a swing vote in elections.
Russia was the first state to recognize Israel in 1948. Moscow changed course, condemned Zionism, and aligned with Arab nations. There were twists and turns in Russian-Israeli relations until President Mikhail Gorbachev resumed diplomatic relations with Israel twenty years ago.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow to celebrate the 20-year anniversary. He, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev discussed global changes and the unrest sweeping the Middle East. They have held talks regarding the problems of Palestinian-Israeli relations and changes that could destabilize the region. Netanyahu praises Russia’s role in the Quartet.
Russia and Israel signed a military cooperation agreement to advance bilateral relations, in March 2011. In the same month, they signed a space cooperation agreement in the fields of space research, observation, navigation, medicine, and biology in space; as well as advanced materials and launchings.
Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Russia, held in depth consultations with Peni Avivi, Deputy Director General of Israeli Foreign Ministry, in August 2011. There is interest in expanding cooperation and vigorous dialogue on global issues; and restarting the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
To secure the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Netanyahu asked Russia to use its contacts with the Palestinian Hamas to secure his release, and Shalit was released this month.
The fastest growing energy market in the world is Eilat, on the southern tip of Israel on the Mediterranean Coast in the Gulf of Aqaba. It side steps the Suez Canal; and opens shorter cheaper routes of oil export to Asia and Africa. Using the Ashkelon –Eilat pipeline, cargos of Russian crude oil leave Eilat for Asia. Russia is not constrained by OPEC quotas, and has the potential to lower oil prices worldwide. This strengthens Russia’s position as a world oil supplier, puts Israel on the oil industry map; and cements Israel’s relationship with Russia.
Netanyahu receives a warmer welcome in Moscow than in London or Paris or the White House. The pro Israel tilt seems to be Putin’s personal choice.
The Moscow Jewish Center celebrated Rosh Hashanah this October. Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, wished everyone in the audience a sweet year. He reminded the prayerful that “Unlike in Russia, there are still countries where Jews are persecuted and where being a Jew is dangerous.” The Rabbi is reported to be a close friend to Putin.
Russia’s role in the Middle East has changed. The close relationship with Israel does not deter an agenda with Iran. Putin maintains support for the Iranian atomic energy program. He argues that the sale of nuclear reactors to Iran is vital to the Russian atomic energy industry.
Putin intends to be elected President in March 2012. He is endorsed by current President Medvedev; and could be in power until 2024. His use of a skillful plastic surgeon maintains a young appearance.
“Eurasian Union” is Putin’s vision to link the old Soviet bloc nations into a powerful union of the modern world, which is not a resurrection of the old Soviet Union. His plan is based on integration of values, politics, and economics in a balanced partnership. Belarus and Kazakhstan support the Union.
Kyrgyzstan has a strategic location. It hosts American and Russian military bases. The American base at Manas Airport is crucial to supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan. This source of revenue will end in 2014, as the “get out of Afghanistan” policy is enacted, and the military lease ends. Caretaker president, Roza Otunbayeva, said if American troops leave, there will be no choice but to join the Russian Union. The just elected president, Almazbek Atambayer, promises closer ties with Russia.
Russia has changed from the hammer fisted policies of the past. Putin instigates a soft campaign with documentary films, and television programs. He is expanding commercial relations with these countries; especially with energy infrastructure.
President Obama believed that the reset with Russia would bring a friendlier relationship. Last December the Senate ratified the START nuclear arms reduction accord; and Russian human rights violations have been soft peddled. Republican Presidential candidates call for an end to the “reset relations,” and harken to Reagan’s doctrine “Peace through Strength”.
President Ronald Reagan used an old Middle Eastern saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” In today’s global entanglements, it is hard to know exactly who the enemy of my enemy might be.