June 21, 2012

When Putin meets Netanyahu

By M K Bhadrakumar    Asia Times 21 June , 2012

The two-day state visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israel next week will raise eyebrows. Plainly put, it comes a little too early in his presidency - he took over the office as recently as May 7 - but underscores the Russian leader's sense of priority regarding Russia-Israel relations. 

Its timing comes at a juncture when the two countries are apparently far apart with regard to critical issues of regional security in the Middle East - Syria and Iran - and it seems improbable that the hiatus could be bridged easily anytime soon. Yet, Putin is returning to Israel for a second visit after a gap of seven years, and he is after all a transactional, results-oriented politician. for more 

5:40 PM (17 hours ago)

to GAJENDRA, gajendra, bcc: me 

Will Putin's Israel Visit Calm Middle East Tempest!
Since the end of World War II, international relations and movements during the Cold War and after the fall of the Berlin Wall have been mostly seen in black-and-white, with the Moscow led states in central Asia on the decline and on the defensive. Things are now changing with Asian countries led by China and Russia and hopefully India too, are trying to establish peace and security for economic growth for their people which the West had ruled and looted since the repulse of Ottoman arms from the Gates of Vienna in 16 century.
The most important event taking place now in the Middle East is the crucial strategic battle over Syria with U.S.-led West with support from Saudi Arabia and Gulf States along with Turkey and other Muslim Sunni states ranged against minority Alawite ruling elite in Syria supported by Lebanon and Iran and backed by Russia and China.
Since long Tel Aviv has been making threatening noises, along with its sympathizers and Jewish groups and lobbies in USA of a preemptive attack on Iran to stop it enriching Uranium which it is entitled to under NPT, a treaty basically designed by the West to isolate and punish upstart India. The author has proclaimed and written 5/6 articles on the subject that in end 2003 or early 2004 a more foolhardy misadventure than the illegal invasion of Iraq could have been undertaken by Bush and his handlers, the Zeo-cons. Since then after withstanding its destruction worse than that by Halagu's Mongol hordes and according to estimates after a loss of 1.4 million Iraqi lives and other consequential  ramifications, it is in the killing fields of Iraq that 6 years ago in the words of decorated US Marine Col Murtha admitted that the American army was 'broken' .It is like the destruction in WWII of 80% of Nazi war machine by the Soviet forces and people bearing terrible losses including over 10 million deaths .But with its so called scholars and media with aid from even  Hollywood films -a la John Wayne films and others and by rewriting history have given almost all the credit to Western arms. Falsely the West claims to have defeated Germany alone. Now be seen in the clutch of daily lies , the coverage of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and now over Syria .The Western media outlets have been reduced to whores and pimps.
By 2007 or so many  of us had felt that was it was time for Washington to organise a Dunkirk like operation for its forces and  material caught up in the quagmire of Iraq and from the grave yards of imperial armies in Afghanistan. But Washington is now ruled by financiers, bankers and warmongers who benefit from profitable throbbing and thriving armament industry feeding on endless wars .USA spends almost as much as the rest of countries put together on defense, which any one can see is to terrorise the world and its people .To hell with the declining economic condition of the people in USA and Europe. US bill on national security, external and internal ads up to a hopping US$ one trillion. US exports are less than imports by $600 billion and survives by selling securities to China and others .The mighty America economically is a paper tiger living on Chinese buying its useless paper .For how long!
For at least two decades if not more the American economy has been declining .It was 50% of the world economy at the end of World War II and has now been reduced to 20% so out of which a good fraction is composed of financial industry which includes derivatives and other such fancy financial instruments which do not add to the brick and mortar of the grassroots productive economy. Like a raging bull Washington has been on a spree of so-called creative destruction which began 40/50 years ago beginning in Vietnam and south-east Asia and then followed it up in many countries in Latin America and then in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, not counting operations now in Yemen, Somalia and other countries
It is perhaps somewhat late for US Dunkirks .We shall see what will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the latter Washington is at the mercy of Pakistan and Russia and other central Asian states for supplying its war machine.
In the middle of all this comes the visit of re-elected and re-invigorated Pres Vladimir Putin of Russia to Israel  ( and then to Jordan where Cherkes from Caucasia form the Royal guards). Since  the breakup of the USSR  millions of Russian speaking citizens not all of them Jews have migrated to Israel and play an important role politically in that country. Russia migrants were encouraged and welcomed to increase non-Palestinian population in Israel.) Therefore a visit by Putin has great significance in the current evolving strategic situation in Middle East .Peace is necessary for the people of West Asia .Israeli leaders Netanyahu and Barak may outdo each other in bellicose statements, but they did not buy Operation Iraqi freedom which was sold instead to George Bush, or rather to his handlers, the Neocons and Zeocons. In fact Barak looking at the creeping quagmire after 2004 in Iraq had asked Dick Cheney if US had plan B. It did not.
The Chinese and Russian leadership ( and India should join them) are in no mood for more wars .The raging violence and conflict in Afghanistan and in parts of Pakistan which have also affected Central Asian republics, formerly part of USSR adjoins Xinjiang province of China. India is still suffering from 2611 and other terror attacks organized from Pakistan .China. India and Russia are slowly building their economy to bring some minimum level of life to the starving millions especially in India. Unfortunately India is following the flawed Keynesian model of capitalism which Hyman Minsky had predicted has inbuilt mechanism to topple over as can be seen in U.S.-led Western counties.
 Putin will hopefully try to educate and persuade belligerent Israeli leaders Netanyahu and Barak that a destroyed , disoriented and broken up Syria would not help Israel . Syria has the 2nd most well organized Muslim brotherhood after Egypt which Assad's have kept at bay by brutal means .Even lessening of tensions in the region will be a help for all. In the heart of their hearts Tel Aviv's knows that USA is fast declining .Then what --Russia might also desire a less prominent Israeli profile in Moscow's  southern neighbour Georgia, with whom it had short brutal war a few years ago.
Below is a very interesting and well-written piece by Ambassador MK Bhadrakumar
Amb(Retd)K Gajendra Singh; 21 June, 2012 

When Putin meets Netanyahu 
By M K Bhadrakumar    Asia Times 21 June , 2012

The two-day state visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Israel next week will raise eyebrows. Plainly put, it comes a little too early in his presidency - he took over the office as recently as May 7 - but underscores the Russian leader's sense of priority regarding Russia-Israel relations.

Its timing comes at a juncture when the two countries are apparently far apart with regard to critical issues of regional security in the Middle East - Syria and Iran - and it seems improbable that the hiatus could be bridged easily anytime soon. Yet, Putin is returning to Israel for a second visit after a gap of seven years, and he is after all a transactional, results-oriented politician. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would know for sure that Putin can be trusted to bargain hard to get the best results for Russia in any given situation, but he could also be a valuable partner, especially if United States President Barack Obama gets re-elected for a second term in the White House. 

The motivations on both sides - Moscow and Tel Aviv - are complex and although their priorities may vary, it stands to reason that Russia and Israel are also drawn together in a realization that a partnership between them could be beneficial and in their mutual interest by augmenting their leverage in more than one direction - and may even be a factor of regional stability in the Middle East. 

What is often forgotten is that Putin always had a warm feeling toward Israel and is on record as saying as recently as the end of last year, "Israel is, in fact, a special state to us. It is practically Russian-speaking. Israel is one of the few foreign countries that can be called Russian-speaking. It's obvious that more than half of the population speaks Russian." 

The ostensible reason for his state visit next week is to inaugurate a memorial at Netanya to the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany. The memorial itself has come up as a result of Netanyahu's state visit to Moscow in 2010, when he agreed with Putin (then prime minister) that Israel should commemorate the Red Army's sacrifices. 

Netanyahu said at that time, "The memorial will express the great appreciation that we feel for the Russian people. Many Jewish Red Army veterans currently live among us, here in Israel. The memorial on the shores of Netanya will also symbolize their contribution and heroism." 

Putin is also, in a manner of speaking, undertaking a "private" visit to Israel. Paradoxically, while the US is considered Israel's close ally, Obama himself isn't a terribly popular figure in Israel; on the other hand, while Israel harbors misgivings bordering on disquiet about many of Russia's policies in the Middle East and considers them at times to be unfriendly and unhelpful, the high level of Putin's personal popularity among the Israelis should be a cause for envy for Obama. 

The point is, the million strong Russian-speaking Jewish emigrants from the territories of the former Soviet Union have integrated well into Israeli society and hold important positions in Israel's national life. They constitute a humanitarian, cultural and economic bridge between Israel and Russia. 

Having said that, politics is a big divider and the main template of Putin's forthcoming visit is going to be over Syria and Iran. Briefly put, Israel and Russia find themselves in opposite camps over both those countries. 

Russia is opposed to foreign intervention in Syria, while the Israeli hand keeps popping up apparently fomenting violence there - the latest reports mention Israeli aircraft ferrying weapons to Kurdistan in northern Iraq (which were procured by Qatar for the use of the Syrian rebels). For its part, Israel resents Russia's military cooperation with the Syrian regime. 

Prima facie, it may seem there is no meeting point on Syria. But then, Russia and Israel would also have a convergence of interests in the overall stability of what is Israel's northern neighbor. Russia would apparently have more by way of shared concern with Israel than the US would have in regard of the rise of Islamism in the Middle East. 

While in the short-term Israel might regard a regime change in Syria as a gratifying development, it cannot but remain concerned that there could be a domino effect of any Muslim Brotherhood triumphed there. (Interestingly, Putin is heading for Jordan after his visit to Israel.) 

This brings up a core aspect of Russia's "intransigence" with regard to the Syrian situation. While Western commentators look at Syria being a "client state" of Russia, they blithely overlook Russia's fear that ascendancy of radical Islam in Syria can easily spread to its extended neighborhood in Central Asia and the North Caucasus. 

Of course, Russia will never allow itself to frontally articulate these Manichean fears (lest it is pushed into an existential struggle vis-a-vis militant Islam), and the nearest it could come would be such as when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey wrote in an article titled "On the Right Side of History" in the Huffington Post last week:
The Arab revolutions clearly show a willingness to go back to the roots of civilization that reveals itself in broad public support for the parties and movements acting under the flag of Islam. ... Such a situation is further proof that the simple (if not simplistic) binary construction of the Cold War period, described in the paradigms of East-West, capitalism-socialism, North-South, is being replaced by a multidimensional geopolitical reality. ...
In practical terms, Lavrov explained, what it amounts to in the Syrian situation could have grave implications for both Russia and Israel:
What seems to prevail ... are attempts to bring about regime change in Damascus as an element of a larger regional geopolitical game. These schemes are undoubtedly targeting Iran, since a large group of States, including the USA and NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] countries, Israel, Turkey and some States of the region appear to be interested in weakening that country's regional positions. 

An attempt to cut the Gordian knot of long-standing problems is doomed to failure. ... Irrespective of the situation concerning Iran, however, it is evident that fueling intra-Syrian strife may trigger processes that would affect the situation in the vast territory surrounding Syria in the most negative way, having a devastating impact on both regional and international security. Risk factors include loss of control over [the] Syrian-Israeli border, a worsening of the situation in Lebanon and other countries in the region, weapons falling into the "wrong hands", including those terrorist organizations, and perhaps the most dangerous of all, an aggravation of inter-faith tensions and contradictions inside the Islamic world."
Whether Putin succeeds or not in nudging Netanyahu's thought processes in the above direction, he can be expected to give it his best shot. 

The high probability is that Putin may not succeed in this mission. His "meaningful" conversation with Obama on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Mexico on Monday would have brought home that the US and its allies are already so far gone into the business of forcing a regime change in Syria that there is no easy turning back at this point. 

Again, the prospect of a "weakening" of Syria on the Middle Eastern chessboard in itself becomes a heady thought for Israel in the prevailing circumstances, and it may put a blinker on it from pondering what lies beyond, despite being so obviously challenged already by the victories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in its Arab neighborhood. 

Ironically it may be an easier task for Putin to persuade Netanyahu to give negotiations a chance to resolve the Iran issue. Russian diplomacy worked hard in recent weeks to see that the P5+1 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany] talks with Iran in Moscow on Monday didn't end up in a catastrophic failure. 

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program were suspended due to what European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said were "significant gaps between ... the two positions." An "expert-level meeting" would be held on July 3 in Istanbul, Ashton said, with a high-level meeting to follow at an unspecified date, depending on the progress of the expert-level meeting, RFE reported. 

If the talks finally ended on a hopeful tone on Tuesday, much of the credit would go to the behind-the-scenes Russian (and Chinese) effort. The fact that the talks are going into a third round - in Beijing or Astana - is itself a breakthrough. 

Beyond that, to quote the chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, the Moscow talks were "more serious, more real and beyond a mere statement of positions". Jalili is on record as saying that "Iran has no problem with transparency" - hinting that it is open to international verification - and is prepared to prove its peaceful program "technically, legally and politically". But he said, Iran's "right to access peaceful nuclear energy, particularly uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel production cycle should be recognized." 

It is unlikely Putin would get into detailed negotiations, but he could lend a big hand to restrain Israel from taking any precipitate action in the critical weeks ahead. 

Of course, the most fascinating part of the visit might come if Putin and Netanyahu get around to exchanging notes on how they weigh the prospects of their countries' relations with the US in the event of Obama securing a second term. If the body language of the Putin-Obama meeting at Mexico on Monday was anything to go by, the two leaders are at some distance away from striking the chord of a friendship. Netanyahu of course has been a victim of Obama's "tough love" and often seemed uncomfortable with the experience 

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey. 


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