There are many signs which make us think of a new strategic relationship between Russia and Israel in the Middle East. In general terms, we can now assume that the Jewish State is already considering and assessing the US disengagement from the Middle East system – hence Israel is trying to define a policy to “replace” them, thus establishing connections with the Russian Federation.
Obviously the bad personal relations between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu carried a remarkable weight in this respect, but we are witnessing a real redefinition of all the regional geopolitical equilibria.
Also the US and EU slapdash attitude on the JCPOA, namely the Treaty on the Iranian civilian-military nuclear power, rightly criticized by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the whole Israeli establishment, had a significant influence in this regard.
Both Russia, which has already “won” its war in Syria and Israel, which has drawn all the geopolitical consequences of the “Arab springs” and the ambiguous initial US support for the anti-Assad Syrians “rebels”, are redesigning – almost alone – the new Greater Middle East map.
Whatever happens in Syria from now on, the US destiny is a progressive marginalization both in the Sunni and Shiite regions, as well as a subjection of its operations to a series of alliances (with Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan) in which the United States will no longer have the clout they had until a few years ago.
As already said, the signs of a “new start” for the Russian-Israeli relations are manifold.
Suffice to think of Russia’s returning of an M48 Patton Israeli tank, captured by the Syrians in the 1982 Lebanon War near Sultan Yaakov during an ambush in which the three tank drivers were killed.
The tank was sent by Hafez el Assad to Moscow for it to be studied by the Soviet technical and intelligence services and was later placed in the Tank Museum of Kubinka.
However there is no official news about the fate of the three IDF soldiers.
Obviously President Vladimir Putin preliminary informed Bashar al-Assad of its decision and nothing prevents the current Syrian Alawite leadership from deciding, in the future, to provide to the Israeli government information about the sad fate of the three tank drivers.
Furthermore, during all Russian operations in Syria, the Russian and Israeli soldiers met regularly to exchange information and avoid duplication of efforts.
The Russians tolerated some trespassing – indeed regularly reported – of Israeli aircraft over the Golan Heights and into central Syria, while the Jewish State tolerated (having been preliminary informed) some Russian aircraft overflying its territory.
Hence it is clear that the sideline negotiations between Russia and Israel are made up of three strands, which are obviously closely interwoven.
Israel wants the Russian Federation to act as a credible mediator and power broker between Israel and the Palestinian region, because Russia is reliable for both parties.
In addition, the Jewish State does not want any transfer of military technology, information and logistics from Russia to its allies in Syria: the Hezbollah, the Iranian brigades of the Pasdaran Al Quds Force and Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Nor can we rule out that – in the coming months or years – the axis between Russia and Israel may result in redesigning regional powers in the Middle East region.
Currently those powers have neither father nor mother, and the replacement of great powers by Iran and Saudi Arabia will not last long.
They are too small and unable to create far-reaching strategic correlations.
Hence time has come for the Middle East to be anchored to a global power, which will be the Russian-Chinese axis, with Israel acting as a regional counterweight.
It is worth recalling that China has already made military flights over the Syrian territory.
The Chinese “non-interventionist” line does not mean lack of real knowledge of facts or lack of pressure and interference power.
The Russian-Israeli negotiations also imply a Russian guarantee for Israel regarding possible Iranian military operations, the marginalization of the Lebanese Shiites’ “Party of God”, a new Assad’s government not aiming at destroying the ”Zionist entity”, or the division of current Syria into three parts, with the consequent reduction of all its internal factions.
This is the US line, and partially also the line of some Israeli decision-makers.
Russia, however, thinks that the whole Southern Syria shall go back under Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while Israel, along with the United States, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, believes that a mini-State in Southern Syria is fundamental for Assad and his Iranian allies to invade the Golan Heights.
However, President Putin’s offer to the Jewish State seems to be the following: if Israel accepted the “Greater Syria”, the Russian forces would remain in the Western region of the country to protect Israel against any action by Iran or Assad’s government.
This is the reason why Russia wants to reopen the political relations between Assad’s regime and Israel, so as to make the Baathist government depart from Iran’s and the Lebanese Shiites’ geopolitical line.
This is not even in its interest.
Hence this is the strategic reason for the token gesture of the restitution of the Israeli tank.
Nevertheless, there is more in the new Russian project in the Middle East and in the Israeli response to the rise of the new Russian power in the Middle East.
During Netanyahu’s visit to Russia on April 21, 2016, for example, the Israeli Prime Minister and the Russian President pointed out Russia’s interest in developing and exploiting the new offshore natural gas field known as Leviathan, which will be the real “game changer” in the Middle East in the near future.
If GazProm cooperates in the exploitation and marketing of the offshore gas field area between Haifa and the Gaza Strip, it will be vital for the Russian Federation to ensure – along with Israel – security of communications, particularly in relation to the possible Hezbollah actions from the Lebanon or the Iranian pressures on the Golan.
This new energy system will finally change the relations between Israel and Turkey, which will be the hub of the natural gas extracted from the Leviathan field, and will make the Russian oil and gas companies enter the Middle East market, thus excluding the US companies operating in Turkey and in most Sunni world.
It is worth recalling that both Iran and Qatar now operate mainly on the natural gas market, and the large Israeli Leviathan gas field could compete with many of the fiercest Muslim, Shiite or Sunni opponents of the Jewish State.
Therefore the three visits paid to Russia by Prime Minister Netanyahu over a year are essential both for Israel’s foreign policy and for its economic future.
Moreover, Israel knows that the Obama administration believes that some territories conquered by the Jewish State were annexed illegally and also this fact could bring Russia and Israel closer in the future.
Russia must maintain its presence in Ukraine and support – at international level – Crimea’s annexation.
If Israel supports Russia’s demands, it is very likely for it to support Israel’s good right to keep the Palestinian territories.
Moreover, in strictly military terms, the Jewish State fears that the presence of Russia’s advanced weaponry – such as the Iskander missile or the batteries of S-4007 carriers, sold by Russia also to Iran – would make the Syrian territory very dangerous for Israel’s security.
Hence very specific operational guarantees and a clear idea of Russian defenses eastwards and along the route of the future Leviathan pipeline will be needed to reassure Israel of the Russian Federation’s good intentions.
It is said, however, that the deployment of the Triumph S-4007 and the other Russian advanced weapons is basically a Russian cosmetic operation for “image” purposes, and some British analysts do not even believe that these news and reports are really grounded.
Nevertheless, at least since 2007 Russia has already had a listening post in place in the Golan Heights, which controls Israel’s telephone traffic (via the Internet and electronically) and, above all, its decision-making centers.
On the other hand, the Jewish State has some listening posts in the Golan Heights and in other safe areas of the Middle East region.
In other words, both President Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu are playing open-face by laying all their cards on the table, being well aware of the projects and the “tacit knowledge” they have about each other.
So, considering all these conditions, in the best possible scenario Israel could:
a) replace – in the long run – the United States with the Russian Federation as a global ally and as a presence of reference in the Middle East region.
In fact, the American ruling class is closely linked to the Saudi lobby, also from a financial and political subsidizing viewpoint.
The two wars of the US-led Coalition in Iraq have disrupted Saudi Arabia’s main enemy, namely Iran. They have placed a Western advanced military system between Saudi Arabia and its Iranian global enemy and they have finally created a center of gravity north of Saudi Arabia, which has stabilized the whole region in favor of the Saudi Sunnis.
Furthermore, b) Israel can rely on a more stable and credible mediator, namely the Russian power broker, both vis-à-vis the Palestinians and, in the long run, even in relation to the Shiite and Alawite world.
The United States have played all their cards in the Greater Middle East on the democratization and secularization of populations and regimes that have not the same culture, the same history and the same link between religion and politics as those traditionally existing in the West.
It is also worth noting that their psyops and propaganda operations were, and still are, limited and often incomprehensible for the huge Islamic masses of the Greater Middle East.
The modernization that has been successful in the current Islam, if any, is the jihad one, not the adaptation to the pro-Western and secularized cultural universe.
Not all Arabs would decide to be shahid, namely “martyrs” for Al Qaeda, but all the Arab masses celebrated – in the streets – the destruction of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon attack.
This is the new imagery and narrative with which we have to come to terms.
It is the “imaginal” – a philosophical concept developed by the orientalist Nenry Corbin, who believed that the term “imaginary” had acquired a very restricted meaning in Western philosophy – stemming from the fact that the great powers’ balance in the Middle East has been replaced by the small regional powers, which have to radicalize their ideology to hide their strategic, military and geopolitical inadequacy or failure.
Hence, since the two Iraqi wars, the United States have viewed the Eastern region under Western eyes – just to quote the title of a great novel by Joseph Conrad, initially set – incidentally – in Saint Petersburg.
A comprehensive strategy of democratization and secularization, which today has clearly failed, and to which the US ruling class cannot but respond with Thomas Jefferson’s formula: no entanglements.
But can there be a global power, with a global currency, without entanglements?
It is a paradox of the US foreign policy which cannot be solved in the short term.
Finally 3) Israel, jointly with the Russian Federation, will be able to manage its new policy of global projection outside the Middle East.
In the future, for Israel, there will be a place in the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, in Central Asia, in India, even in Latin America and in some African areas.
All areas which are now in the Russian and Chinese strategic reach, while the EU is retreating even from the Mediterranean (and increases its already substantial rate of anti-Semitism) and dreams, together with the United States, of an irrational revival of the Cold War, with the current NATO operations in Poland.
It is worth noting, however, that both Crimea and Ukraine are in Russian hands, at least de facto, and that a military operation against the NATO positions along the border with the Russian Federation can be led from those areas – an operation which would be hard for NATO to oppose.
Sirius Focuses on Talents and Success of Russian Youth
Russia’s youth is Russia’s future. Russia has been building its youth and offering them diverse opportunities and support. “Within this historically short period of time, Sirius Educational Centre has become, without exaggeration, Russia’s true asset,” President Vladimir Putin unreservedly noted via videoconference meeting with the Talent and Success Foundation Board of Trustees.
Since its establishment in 2015 on the initiative of the President Putin, the Sirius Educational Centre has cloaked a number of successes, most particularly with talents training to growing generation of teenagers. Every year, the Talent and Success Foundation Board of Trustees, traditionally, meet to discuss and review the current work and outline prospects for its further development.
As Sirius turned five years last September, it has become, without exaggeration, Russia’s true asset. It was one-of-a-kind educational center set up at the Olympic facilities. This Olympic legacy (this was a decision we made in due time – to establish this center as part of the Olympic legacy) benefits children. Sirius helps gifted schoolchildren, primarily from the regions, including small towns and even remote villages, to set high goals for themselves and get off to a strong start in life.
Today, the participants in the Sirius programs study at the country’s top universities and get government grants and fellowships. By the way, this support is offered via Sirius. Some of them have already signed future work contracts and even work at the largest, successful domestic companies.
Apparently, such remarkable successes and achievements of Sirius students have been made possible by an unparalleled training format, at an intensive pace and in an environment with talented peers and truly excellent star tutors. Sirius is at present the world’s only educational center where teaching is conducted by world-class scientists, outstanding educators, athletes, coaches and musicians.
“But I would like to underscore that we have always regarded Sirius not as a closed elite club for the chosen but rather as an open national platform for working with talents which concentrates the best technology and expertise for unlocking human capabilities, in our case those of a young person, a teenager or a child, of course. Such practices are widely replicated, and change the system of working with the youth across Russia,” argues Putin with the Board of Trustees.
Putin further pointed to its unique talent and civil patriotism, by all means be preserved and multiply human potential. “To do this, we must build up our education today and establish effective mechanisms for children’s development throughout the country for them to discover their talent and soar to new athletic, artistic and scientific heights. We must create the conditions for the children to succeed here, at home, in their native land, in Russia,” suggested Putin.
In this regard, it is crucial that Sirius continues to expand its orbit. Its roadmaps even extend beyond the coming decade, the whole 21st century. Sirius necessarily turn into a magnet for everyone who is ready to become a trailblazer and ensure a true technological breakthrough, for Russian scientists, for engineers at high-tech companies and, of course, for Sirius students. All that matters for them.
Their living and working space should also reflect the improving climate in general, it must reflect the sense of a new time, the beat of life, and must be designed with account of advanced trends in urban design, architecture and city development. Obviously, the very best solutions should be used for preserving the environment and expanding opportunities for the people.
And, of course, effective management mechanisms that will allow for taking prompt decisions, implementing Sirius’s development projects and engaging research universities, scientific centers and companies from across the country. Sirius is expanding the horizon of experience and creativity and offering opportunities to talented children. These projects would not be possible without the support of the powerful people with strategic thinking and love for the country and its future.
Soon or later, the State Duma will push a new provision of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and grant Sirius Educational Centre the status of a federal territory, which entails economic independence for Sirius and a direct communication mechanism with both the President and the Government of Russia. As Putin has assured, all decisions must come into effect as early as next year, in 2021.
Russia: Highlights of the XII BRICS Summit
On November 17, under Russia’s BRICS Chairmanship, Vladimir Putin hosted the 12th BRICS Summit via videoconference. The leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa participated to discuss the state and prospects of cooperation within BRICS, discussed the global stability and security, and most importantly exchanged views on joint efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
As the Chair of BRICS 2020, President Vladimir Putin reviewed BRICS activities since Russia took over from Brazil, highlighted achievements and set the challenges for the future of BRICS. During the Russia’s Chairmanship the BRICS, Russia has held 130 events, including some 25 ministerial meetings, many of them online.
Within the context of the current global health situation, Putin pointed to the subject of medical cooperation among BRICS, and reminded the Ufa Declaration which was adopted five years ago included an agreement to work together to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Pursuant to that agreement, the BRICS countries created an early warning system for infectious disease outbreaks, which could be used during the COVID-19 pandemic. The BRICS countries promptly responded to the disease outbreak and took practical measures to combat the pandemic.
He said that the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has signed agreements with Indian and Brazilian partners on clinical tests of the Sputnik V vaccine and with pharmaceutical companies in China and India on the production of this vaccine not only for own use, but also for third countries. There are Russian vaccines, and they are effective and safe. The next task is to launch large-scale production. It is very important to join forces for the large-scale manufacturing of this product for public use.
Besides this, it important to accelerate the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre, as agreed at the Johannesburg summit two years ago at the initiative of South African.
Due to the pandemic, many countries have taken emergency measures to support national industries, finance and the social sphere, to revive their economies and return them to a trajectory of sustainable growth. This is the goal of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership for the period until 2025, prepared for this summit.
The New Development Bank is in great demand in the current situation. The Bank has reserved $10 billion to combat the pandemic, while its overall portfolio of investment projects now exceeds $20 billion. As many as 62 large projects are being implemented in the BRICS countries. Incidentally, a regional branch of the bank will soon open in Moscow to implement lending programs across the Eurasian space. The BRICS countries have a special insurance tool in case of a crisis in the financial markets: the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, with a $100 billion fund.
The BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism is important in the parties’ cooperation on credit and investment policy. This year, they have agreed on the rules and principles of responsible financing of development institutions within its framework.
The five countries are enhancing cooperation in science, technology, and innovation. Intensive contacts have been underway between our academic and scientific centers. Their coverage is truly impressive – from ocean and polar research to astronomy and artificial intelligence. Experts from the five countries carry out joint energy research: reports have been prepared on the projected development of the fuel and energy sectors in the BRICS countries until 2040.
Putin further highlighted the challenging global and regional security environment. International terrorism and drug trafficking continue to pose serious threats, and cybercrime has greatly expanded its reach.
“We are witnessing dangerous destabilizing trends in the Middle East and North Africa. The armed conflicts in Libya and Yemen are continuing. There is still a lot to be done to bring about a political settlement in Syria, and the risks of escalation persist in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and in the Persian Gulf,” he told the gathering.
It is highly satisfying that the BRICS countries have been closely coordinating their efforts on current international and regional matters. A policy document, the BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy, drafted for the summit. The BRICS countries are expanding their cooperation on combating drug trafficking and corruption, as well as on international information security.
During the meeting, the leaders of the BRICS member countries heard reports from other speakers who have overseen the work on each track of the association’s activity.
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev spoke about cooperation in the coronavirus pandemic response, in combating terrorism and cybercrime.
President of the New Development Bank Marcos Troyjo cited the financial institution’s performance data and plans for next year.
President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergei Katyrin spoke about the Business Council events, while Chairman of VEB RF Igor Shuvalov covered the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism.
The report by Chair of the Board of Directors of Global Rus Trade Anna Nesterova addressed the establishment of the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance.
President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, President of China Xi Jinping and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, during the meeting, exchanged views on the state and prospects of the five-sided cooperation.
The 12th BRICS Summit Moscow Declaration was adopted which reflects the five countries’ consolidated approach to the further development of the association, as well as the Strategy for the BRICS Economic Partnership until 2025 and the BRICS Anti-Terrorism Strategy.
“India, China, South Africa and Brazil commend Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 and express their gratitude to the government and people of Russia for holding the XII BRICS Summit,” the adopted document says. Besides that, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa extended full support to India for its BRICS Chairmanship in 2021 and the holding of the 13th BRICS Summit.
Exchange of Information and Communication Key to Boosting Russian-African Partnership
On November 5 to 6, Moscow hosted the Second Russia-Africa Public Forum organized jointly by the World Association of Foreign Alumni of Russian Universities and African Business Initiative Union.
It was held within the framework of Russia’s strategy for the development and strengthening of trade, economic, social and cultural relations with the countries of the African continent, as well as building a stronger institutional foundation for Russian-African cooperation.
Since its creation in October 2018, it has become a platform for discussing ways of interaction between Russia and African countries on a wide range of issues, with special attention to the development of socio-cultural, humanitarian, trade and economic cooperation.
This month, prominent political and public officials, representatives of academic circles, the business community, and student and youth organizations were brought to the forum, which organizers believe provides a platform to exchange views on current issues of developing multifaceted relations between Russia and African countries.
Greeting the participants, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that Russian-African cooperation, which is rooted in the period of the joint struggle against colonialism, is based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.
“Russia’s relations with African countries have always been friendly and multifaceted. However, it is necessary to adjust them to modern realities. We proceed from the assumption that the impetus of the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi in October 2019 can help us take our interaction to a fundamentally new level,” he stressed with optimism.
Lavrov said: “I believe that our public and the academic community can do a great deal to help choose methods of boosting Russian-African partnership. There is no doubt that the forum will provide a useful platform for developing innovative ideas and proposals in this sphere, and that it will help the Russian public learn more and understand better the needs of Africa, which is a geographically remote but spiritually close continent.”
The two-day forum focused on the modernization of education in the context of globalization and the scientific and technological revolutions.
It reviewed the strategy of economic cooperation in modern conditions, the development and implementation of new effective institutions and mechanisms of interaction.
It discussed, at length, the problems of international cultural cooperation in the context of modern threats and challenges.
It looked at the ever-growing role of public organizations in various aspects of society’s life and the interaction in the field of healthcare as one of the most pressing issues of the Russian-African dialogue. There were plenary sessions.
Plenary Session 1: Russia – Africa: Dialogue of Civil Societies as the Main Driver of the Future World Order and Sustainable Development.
Plenary session 2: Youth of Russia and Africa: a path towards rapprochement
Plenary session 3: Graduates of Russia as a unique human capital. Export of Russian education to Africa. Personnel training: what kind of specialists does the African continent need today?
Panel session 4: Business and Civil Society Institutions. Innovative technologies of Russian companies for the benefit of sustainable development of the African continent.
Panel session 5: Africa: pressing health issues. Public health and welfare. Pandemic shock.
Speakers and participants have, however, acknowledged the significance of the public forum and stressed that it would be impossible to elevate the entire range of relations between Russia and African countries to an entirely new level unless the public at large takes the most energetic part in these efforts.
It is hard to overestimate the role of this in strengthening friendship, trust and mutual understanding between the two parties without adequate and consistent exchange of information. It is necessary to maximize the potential of public, cultural and business diplomacy using the basic instrument of the media, according to the Chairman of the Board of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s Development and Support Foundation Andrei Bystritsky, speaking at the plenary meeting of the Second Russia-Africa Public Forum.
“On the one hand, the Russian public knows little about Africa. And I guess people in Africa know little about Russia,” he noted, and explained that Russia and Africa need to communicate more. Creating necessary conditions for conversation is important, as communication is the foundation of development, and will help strengthen the mutually beneficial ties between Russia and Africa.
As already known, Africa is an important partner for Russia. This fact was highly re-echoed throughout the forum. Speakers and participants explicitly expressed the need to strengthen relations in various fields. Further, most of the issues and diverse opinions expressed there have to improve the current level of relationship. Russia and Africa have to make that mutual desire, in practical terms, to step up cooperation in all areas including social spheres.
In this connection, it requires complete understanding, support for new initiatives and, commitment to expand friendly relations with Africa. These efforts directed not only at consolidating cooperation with the African countries but also at resolving key African problems such as overcoming social inequality and the involvement of young Africans in sustainable economic development.
Despite the challenges, Moscow plans to boost its presence on the continent in the coming years and, as outlined in the Russia-Africa Summit declaration, both Russia and Africa have to begin pursuing targeted goals, continue encouraging exchanges between Russia and African countries.
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