Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow this week to attend the Victory Day Celebration in Red Square. He sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, walked next to him in the march of the Immortal Regiment, and even inspected the troops with Putin as is customary for a head of state. In other words, he received a very warm welcome.
Israel is a curious situation for the Kremlin. Although a long-term American ally, a nuclear one at that, Russia is also the arch enemy of Russia’s new-found buddy in the Middle East, Iran. Russia had enabled Iran to attain much-needed cash from the Iran nuclear deal, or the JCPOA. Moscow desperately needed this money to inject into its economy, barely limping along from Western sanctions. Russia was building nuclear plants in the Islamic Republic and selling tons of sophisticated weapons to Tehran, weapons that could, and were beginning to, threaten the Jewish State. In other words, Tehran was becoming a great customer for Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs.
That is all gone now. Trump has killed the golden goose that Putin so carefully manufactured in the global talks that put Iran also on a path to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. America’s withdrawal from the deal, and its firm desire to reimplement serious sanctions, has gotten everyone’s attention.
This is why Netanyahu is in Moscow. He knows Putin is in a difficult position. He also knows Putin can do something about the Israeli security problem with Iran.
To put it bluntly, after the Obama administration withdrew American forces from Iraq, Russia become the new sultan of the Middle East; Putin became the man to see to get something done in the Levant. Although American forces are in the area, they do not have a large footprint on the ground. Russia developed relationships with Iranian proxy forces like Hezbollah which is now threatening Israel, along with Syria herself.
As Israel and Syria trade blows, a conflict could become a very serious situation that will effect all of the geopolitical players that are involved in the area. A regional war will hurt everyone’s economy as oil prices would skyrocket.
Except Russia’s. $100 oil will fill the Kremlin’s coffers, a much desired result. However, a brutal war could possible force regime change in Iran and Putin would lose a valued friend.
Putin has a lot to win or lose in the Middle East. The next few months are critical to world peace.
Netanyahu knows Putin can help…if he wants to.