Thursday, August 17, 2006

Russia's Role in the Lebanon Crisis

AIA has published a detailed analysis of Russia's involvement in the Lebanon crisis, giving a day-by-day account of the Kremlin's machinations as it sought - somewhat ineffectively - to create the image of Moscow as a "peacemaker" and intermediary. The article reveals the elaborate lengths to which the Russian leadership is evidently prepared to go in the course of this process, showing how it switched between statements that appeared to support "Israel's right to live in conditions of safety" and public utterances and discussions that suggested the exact opposite. Putin's "right to live" statement of July 25 was followed only two days later by a meeting that contradicted it entirely:
In two days the Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Oleg Ozerov, was taking part in a "round table" discussion that had gathered Russian diplomats and experts, Lebanese and Palestinian politicians and journalists. With Ozerov's tacit consent, the participants of the forum declared Israel "the shock-troops of global fascism", and Ozerov himself accused Israelis of the attempts "to bomb Lebanon back to the Stone Age". On July 31, the Russian Foreign Ministry subjected Tel Aviv to strictures for "the gross violation of elementary norms of international humanitarian rights". On a level with this, three days later, again in a Foreign Ministry statement, it was marked that "there are no doubts on the necessity of providing security of Israel, preclusion of bombardments of the Israeli territory and acts of terror with the victims among civilians".
The article reaches the conclusion that Russian Middle East policy has not yet greatly evolved since the Soviet era. Moscow still tries to appear as a "mediator" in the conflict, while in general following a pro-Arab line which does not, however, commit it to direct action. Its statements and actions are a balancing act that is founded on simulation. The consequences of this are not without danger:
Fundamental revision of its regional policy is required to change the status of Russia in the Middle East. Most likely, at least up to the 2008 presidential elections, the Kremlin would be not making such a decision. Accordingly, in the immediate future, Russia will continue to simulate an active participation in the further settlement of the Middle East conflict, simultaneously playing no essential role in it. One should expect that, as before, this will be widely used by the conservative regimes and radical elements in the region, in particular Iran, Syria, HAMAS and Hezbollah. Factually not reckoning with Russia’s interests, they are considering the "Russian factor" as one of the elements of restraint of activity of the United States in the Middle East, and also within the frame of strengthening of their own international position.
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