Russian president Vladimir Putin may appear to be ill. He may appear to be weak, but he still rules with an iron fist. To think otherwise is wishful thinking — wishful thinking by European countries and even more so by the United States.
Putin has not travelled much since February 24th, a date the Ukrainian nation will never forget, but the trips he has made are certainly noteworthy. While the Western world would have us believe that Putin is isolated, that diplomatically he has no friends, Putin’s out-of=country visits have been specifically paid to his friends, to his allies.
During the last week of June, Vladimir Putin travelled to Tajikistan and to Turkmenistan. And then he attended the sixth Caspian Summit alongside the presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan. Iran and Azerbaijan. His friends, his associates, his allies.
While according to Western media Putin’s recent visit to Iran was his first trip since the invasion was begun, obviously, it was not. It was however, a slap in the face, a punch to the gut, a blow to the United States.
U.S. President Joe Biden had barely blown out of Jeddah when Russian President Vladimir Putin breezed into Teheran. There, he had face-to-face meetings with Iranian leadership and was joined by Turkey’s Erdogan for another face-to-face, this one a three-way summit.
And while there, Putin had a long phone meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Salman. And as did Biden, they, too, spoke about oil and gas and grain.
Meeting with Turkey and with Saudi Arabia was a strategic move. It could have all been accomplished through emissaries. But Putin chose to act in person. He was aligning interests — his and theirs. He was re-establishing common ground.
Specifically, he was reaffirming anti-U..S interests. And for that, he met with no opposition.
President Biden had literally just left Jeddah and the Saudis are engaging with Putin.
The United States is helping Kurdish fighters in Syria. Turkey is attacking those same Kurds.
Iran has figured out how to live with Western sanctions. Putin wants to know their secret. Iran needs grain. Iran wants Putin to open grain from Russian and Ukraine.
Saudi Arabia is in control of oil and gas supplies. The United States wants to open the floodgates and saturate the market thereby driving down Russia’s profits. Russia and Saudi Arabia want to keep prices high.
No, Putin is neither cowering nor cornered. Putin is still dangerous and still flexing not only his military but also his diplomatic strengths. What the West knows to be a war crime, Putin prefers to think of as taking what is rightfully Russia’s.
In fact, Russia has begun the practice of exacting a price — political revenge, on those who have challenged them.
Israel, too, is now in Putin’s crosshairs.
From the start of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Israel performed a balancing act between the countries. They divided their public statements. That strategy has now backfired.
While then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennet even moderated between Putin and Zelenskyy, then-Foreign Minister, now Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid was very critical of Putin.
According to Russian media outlet Interfax, Russia has shut down the offices of the Jewish Agency. The largest Jewish organization in the world, its primary purpose is to support Jewish communities in the Diaspora and, if they so desire, to assist them in moving to Israel.
The Israel-based Jewish Agency is being investigated for “unspecified violations of Russian law.” The case is in Moscow’s Basmanny District Court. Investigators have seized computers and locked the office.
There are between 150,000 and 350,000 Jews living in Russia. This discrepancy in numbers may be the law that the Jewish Agency broke in Russia — the excuse that Putin found to punish the Jewish State.
Russia will probably assert that the Jewish Agency was collecting population information and a directory of Russian citizens which is against Russian law.
They were, of course, collecting names and information, just as they do all around the globe. But not to contravene Russian law.
They did it to service the Russian Jewish community. They did it to provide essential Jewish services to those living in Russia.
Prime Minister Lapid immediately dispatched a diplomatic team composed of representatives of Israel’s foreign ministry and the Jewish Agency. The team is led by Israel’s national security adviser Eyal Hulata,
Natan Sharansky was the former head of the Jewish Agency. He was a former prisoner in the Soviet Gulag. He knows how Putin thinks.
And Natan Sharansky is warning all Jews living in Russia to get out — while they still can. Before its too late, like it once was for him.
In so many ways, it appears that the Iron Curtain is falling once again.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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