TCS Daily

Diplomatic Impunity

By Richard Weitz - August 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov openly told Pravda in 2004: "Russia's policy is neither pro-Arab nor pro-Israel. It is aimed at securing Russian national interests." These include earning money through arms sales, distancing Russia from unpopular Western policies and otherwise attempting—thus far unsuccessfully—to reestablish Moscow as a pivotal player in Middle Eastern affairs.

As part of this latter effort, the Russian government hosted a senior-level delegation from Hamas earlier this year. Moscow's unilateral invitation undermined the international boycott initiated to induce the recently elected Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to moderate its policies. Despite sharp foreign criticism for breaking ranks with the rest of the world community, Russian President Vladimir Putin was unrepentant. "We invited Hamas for a good reason and we regret nothing," he declared. "We believe that if a political movement enjoys a legitimate vote of confidence of its people, which is exactly the case with Hamas, then, even if it is not a convenient partner for some, we should come to terms" with it.

The recent war in Lebanon revealed the problems inherent in Russia's undiscriminating approach. After Hamas and then Hezbollah kidnapped three Israeli soldiers, Russian officials claimed that their contacts with these two organizations and their Syrian and Iranian allies enhanced Moscow's ability to gain the prisoners' release and end the subsequent fighting. Putin also insisted that his policy of keeping "open channels of communication with all the participants in the conflict" had ensured that "we have quite a high level of trust with everyone involved."

Russian officials initially enjoyed unusual influence due to the government's fortuitous hosting of the G-8 summit. They succeeded, for instance, in watering down a draft resolution that had originally condemned Hezbollah for precipitating the fighting. Russian representatives expressed disapproval of hostage taking, but they described Israel's forceful response in both Gaza and Lebanon as disproportionate.

Soon after the G-8 summit ended, however, Russian representatives found themselves largely ignored. For a few hours on August 11, it looked as if Russia might again play its traditional spoiler role when its UN Security Council delegation submitted a resolution calling for a three-day "humanitarian ceasefire." But Moscow quickly backtracked after the other Council members made clear their determination to draft a resolution aimed at achieving a longer-lasting settlement based on a restoration of Lebanese government sovereignty over Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon.

Russia's most significant role in the Lebanon war may have been its past arms deliveries to Syria. Damascus appears to have transferred some of these weapons to Hezbollah, contributing to its unexpectedly robust military performance. Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Hezbollah was using Russian-made RPG-29 Vampir anti-tank grenade launchers to penetrate the armor of Israel's Merkava tanks. Hezbollah also reportedly employed Russian-designed anti-tank missiles against Israeli armor and low-flying helicopters. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin insisted that his government's effective export controls made it impossible for Hezbollah to acquire diverted Russian-made weapons. Informally, Russian defense experts argued that the USSR had sold the RPG-29s so widely that Hezbollah could easily have obtained them from other sources. Nevertheless, the Russian government has reaffirmed its determination to sell additional arms to Syria, despite the risks of a confrontation between the Israeli Defense Forces and a Syrian military armed primarily with Moscow-provided weapons.

Israel and the United States have long objected to Russian arms sales to Syria, Iran, and other state sponsors of terrorism. After meeting with his Russian counterpart this February, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, "The U.S. prefers that countries not sell weapons to countries on the terrorist list." Russian officials regularly reply that Russia adheres to all applicable international laws regarding military sales and exports only defensive weapons. They also dismiss foreign protests as reflecting a desire to eliminate unwelcome Russian competition or curtail Moscow's regional influence.

Russian officials refuse to identify Iran or Syria as state-sponsors of terrorism or place Hamas and Hezbollah on their terrorist list. Their policies during the recent Lebanon crisis, like Putin's widely failed efforts last year to convene an Arab-Israeli peace conference in Moscow, underscore their desire to play a major role in Middle Eastern affairs. Yet, Russia's opportunistic arms control and anti-terrorist policies will prevent it from doing so.

The author is a Senior Fellow and Associate Director of the Center for Future Security Strategies at the Hudson Institute.



I used to think that peole who wanted us out of the UN were wacko
I used to think that peole who wanted us out of the UN were wacko, but now I see less and less reasons to perpetuate this hypocritic organization.

Any organization that perpetually makes a mockery of its founding ideals should be defunded.

In a free market economy we can vote with our pocketbooks. When Russia and China go against our national intrest and our politicians do not have the stones to punish them with economic sanctions, we as taxpayers can boycott their products that are sold in this country. Russia is cash strapped and their KGB boss leader only sees the communist solution to sell weapons to anyone who will buy them as a way out. This is especially silly after they were so viciously attacked by terrorists with Russian made weapons in Chechnea. The Russian and Chineese people need to wake up to true marketplace solutions to their economic issues.

Putin is hilarious
Putin said,
We believe that if a political movement enjoys a legitimate vote of confidence of its people, which is exactly the case with Hamas, then, even if it is not a convenient partner for some, we should come to terms with it.

The same way they came to terms with the Chechyans?

TCS Daily Archives