The unspoken subtext is that Russia intends to reassert its leadership role in a region where it sees American leadership no longer as dominant as it once was.
Russia and Israel have conflicting viewpoints on numerous issues, ranging from Iran and Russian arms sales to Iran and Syria, to Georgia and Russia’s conflict with the former Soviet republic. Russia tends to take the Palestinians’ side in international talks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Putin, in talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during this trip, revived the idea of a big Moscow conference to jumpstart peace negotiations – something for which Israel has no enthusiasm.
But it’s also true that recent events in Israel’s neighborhood leave the Israeli government more sympathetic to Russia’s cautious outlook on change in the region. With an Islamist hailing from the Muslim Brotherhood about to assume Egypt’s presidency, nervous Israelis can only nod approvingly as Putin warns that the next leaders of Syria, were President Bashar al-Assad to fall, might be a scarier bunch.
To underscore his point, Putin noted to his Israeli hosts that America’s war in Iraq resulted in a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad. “These things should be thought out ahead of time before doing something one will regret later,” Putin said.