Opinion: Putin forces West to choose between Ukraine and Middle East (II)

Putin forces West to choose between Ukraine and Middle East (I)

Russian friends in Palestine

On 4 May 2014, Hamas leaders met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogomolov, who is still Putin’s ambassador to the Middle East, in the Russian Embassy in Qatari capital Doha. It was officially reported that they discussed Palestinian unity.

That same evening, Mr. Abbas arrived in Doha and the following day he met with Khaled Meshaal, Hamas political bureau chief. A month later, on 3 June, Hamas spokesman announced that, in three weeks, Meshaal would go to Moscow at the invitation of Russia. Around that time came the announcement of Abbas’s upcoming visit to Russia.

On 25 June, Putin entertained Abbas in Moscow. The latter was not a newcomer in the Russian capital – he had been a post-graduate student there and his scientific advisor was Yevgeny Primakov, who later worked as the vice-president of the KGB and as the director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence. As it has been reported, Putin discussed the Israeli-Palestinian relations with Abbas, further cooperation and the situation in Syria. At the time, tensions because of the kidnapped Jews nurtured.

On 30 June, when bodies of the Jewish teenagers were found, 16 missiles were fired to Israel. On 2 July, when the burned Palestinian boy was found, 13 missiles were fired; on 4 July, 21 missiles were fired. On 5 July, 11 missiles were fired; on 6 July, when the Israeli police arrested the Palestinian’s killers, 30 missiles were fired.

Before the visit to Moscow, preparatory work was carried out. It was publicly announced that, on 26 June, Meshaal related to the Emir of Qatar by phone the situation in the occupied territories, as Qatar shelters the Hamas headquarters that moved there from Syria in 2012. On 27 June, Meshaal sent a letter to the Iranian president with a request to support the Palestinian resistance.

The information about the announced Hamas leader’s visit to Moscow in the beginning of June could not be found. Famous Moscow-based Russian publicist Yulia Latynina has recently informed me and allowed to quote that she knows from a reliable source that Meshaal visited Moscow on the eve of intensification of missile firing. Meshaal was in Moscow for one day and no reports on the visit were made, and the next day Gaza fired missiles at Israel.

On 7 July, 80 missiles were fired from Gaza. On 8 July, there were 156 missiles. On that day, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge (hebr. Tzuk Eitan) in response to the firings. While Israel was aware of the coincidence of Mashaal’s visit and the start of firings, it did not make any announcements about it. In return, Russia did not condemn Israel shooting back in the UN Security Council.

Ten times ceasefire was announced, but broken every time. The Russian president’s website states that, on 13 August, Abbas spoke with Putin and discussed the truce. After 50 days of Operation Protective Edge, the eleventh truce was announced, this time mediated by Egypt. The country is interested in reducing Hamas militancy: on 11 July, Egyptian soldiers arrested 20 Russian missiles “Grad”, slung from Gaza into the Sinai peninsula by tunnel. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose government was recently toppled by the Egyptian military, is where Hamas itself emerged from.

More important than he is

On 26 August, Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, though nothing new had been offered to it. And again a coincidence: the same day, 26 August, a summit was held in Minsk attended by Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Russian president said not a word about the fact that there was a war in Eastern Ukraine, he spoke emphatically about the economy. At that time, the Russian armed forces began an invasion to Ukraine.

It seems that Putin presented a choice to the West: If you want peace in the Middle East, would you exchange if for Ukraine? He indicated without words that Hamas began and ended action whenever it was favourable for the Kremlin. Putin thus makes plain for Barack Obama that he would be very wrong to call Russia “a regional power”. Maybe he will stop insulting so painfully? It is a real disaster for Russia to have a leader that pushes the country to economic and political isolation, while it imagines itself a global player.

Once again, the Russian leader thinks that the dilemma between the Arab world and Eastern Europe is like two chairs that are impossible to sit on at the same time. Mikhail Gorbachev thought so too and he made a mistake in trying to hide the bloody aggression of January 1991 in Vilnius under the Desert Storm. Now Putin underestimates the United States and its ability to cooperate with its allies successfully at the same time in the Middle East, against the Islamic State, and in Ukraine.

The reason for Putin’s defeat will be that he cannot accept that Western civilization is much more powerful than the Russia he created. He measures his opponents by his own standards and imagines himself equal, so he is not able to clearly see that he is of a much lighter weight class. He expects to scare the Western world into allowing Putin to do what he wants.

He forgets that nobody allows rocking the foundation in the house in which one lives. The West lives in a house with a framework of peace created by the principle of inviolability of borders. This framework was damaged in Georgia, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine. But there are limits to everything.

So far, the West lags behind with its policy of sanctions. But it’s time to take the lead and make clear what consequence awaits each possible action. There is no need to wait for the siege of Mariupol – Russians must know what awaits them if they do. There’s no need to beg them not to send military equipment and soldiers – they need to know what awaits them if they don’t stop before a set date.

The preliminary severity can be effective on Putin, who is afraid to appear weak: It is easier for him not to do things than to back down after doing them. But warnings must be carried out if he comply. A dog keeps barking at a stick until it is beaten with it.

Translated by Lotus Translation

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