Russia Flexes Muscle in Iran, Hamas Talks

On the eve of today's meeting between Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations says President Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian ways pose a problem for the United States.

In a report released Sunday, CFR said Russia's drift away from democratic norms under Putin "will make it harder for the two sides to find common ground and harder to co-operate even when they do." Publicly, the two governments are emphasizing their agreement. Bush adminstration officials were privately unhappy about Russia's red carpet treatment of Hamas, whose hardline leaders are rejecting pressures to recognize Israel, and its offer to supply Iran with enriched uranium processed under Russian control.

But the Russian online media played up agreements over differences. The Itar-Tass news agency reported on the U.S. endorsement of Russia's offer to Iran while The Moscow News quoted a State Department spokesman emphasizing that Lavrov had called on Hamas to recognize Israel.

"We think it's important that Hamas get the message loud and clear," said State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.

But if the message to Palestinians was clear, noted the News, Lavrov did not always say it out loud.

In public remarks with Hamas leaders, Lavrov "made no mention of European and American demands that Hamas recognize Israel and renounce violence," the independent Moscow daily reported.

Patriach Alexy II, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, hailed Hamas for its electoral victory but said the group should recognize Israel. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal welcomed the Patriarch's message, saying it "finds understanding and reciprocity among Palestinians."

Upon leaving Moscow, Meshaal pronounced the trip a success, according to the Regnum news agency.

As Lavrov was wrapping up talks with Hamas, Russian and Iranian officials continued to negotiate a compromise that could head off United Nations sanctions against Iran. The news agency RIA Novosti reported Sunday that an agreement might be just hours away, but but a deal had not materialized by the time the IAEA board convened today in Vienna. The board is to consider whether it will refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible economic sanctions.

Putin's negotiations with Iran may be an effort to steer Russia "away from the Western-oriented policy of his predecessor Boris Yeltsin," say analysts interviewed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

On Hamas and Israel, "Putin wants to play a mediation role in order to boost the authority of Russia, and his own -- or, at any rate, give the impression that Russia plays an important role and that he has the power to advance a settlement in the Middle East," says Vladimir Pribylovsky, director of the Panorama think tank in Moscow.

"The fact that Putin is not united with the United States on this issue but, on the contrary, is against what the United States would have preferred, of course represents a blow to the United States's position," says Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the U.S.A.-Canada Institute in Moscow.

As for the CFR report, evidence of Putin's strong-arm rule was apparent as Russian Special Forces broke up a demonstration where protesters planned to burn scarecrow effigies of Putin, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Seven others protesting the Hamas visit were arrested in a seperate incident.

By Jefferson Morley |  March 6, 2006; 12:45 PM ET  | Category:  Europe
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Russian's support of terrorist in the Middle East (Hamas, Iran) are making Ruso-U.S relations difficult. If Putin continues his pro-terrorist positions, then it may be time to hit Russia where it hurts...Economic sanctions.....

Posted by: Max Jerome | March 6, 2006 03:23 PM

Far past time US foreign policy isw used for US needs. i.e. takenouf of the hands of Israel first neocons...Wolfie and Israel "scooter" libby now aside, thank God. But they got us into Iraq first, Sharon's dearest wish and are working on Iran.
The yack about Russia becoming less democratic is about Putin trying to wrest that country and it's precious natural resources from the Jewish oligarchs. Edsalls piece today should be noted carefully.

Posted by: linnalee | March 6, 2006 03:33 PM

Since I opposed the war with Iraq, it is obvious that, while I might not like a government, I have no interest in attacking it unless it is a PROVEN threat to the U.S.
However, whatever is going on inside Russia, I have no criticism, so far, of it's foreign policy in the Middle East. I believe in engagement over hostile rhetoric, and, it is my personal belief, that the Bush Administration has the inept Middle Eastern foreign policy in American History. It has been fairly inept in the past. But this administration is without a doubt the most inept.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | March 6, 2006 04:30 PM

In the 30s and 40s zionists used exactly the same methods as Hamas uses nowadays... Was that righteous?

Posted by: Répás János Sándor | March 6, 2006 04:48 PM

What level of incompetence must an administration achieve before impeachment becomes an option?

Posted by: Derick | March 6, 2006 04:55 PM

and while putin consolidates power in russia, we allow our leaders to spy on us, take our rights away, steal elections, take our money, kill people in other countries and die for a cause that no-one believes in, be corrupt, throw us in jail for years and without charges, etc.

we have the ability to not let any of these things happen, but are too busy playing x-box and/or arguing over the oscars.

in fact, the same thing is happening all over the world, in every country and we are all powerless to stop it.

Posted by: dockers | March 6, 2006 05:13 PM

Dockers you rock!!! my sentiments exactly.
You are right, we have the power to stop it but are too busy playing games ourselves to become united as global citizens to stand up against the madness. 60% of Canadian's do not want our soldiers in Afghanistan supporting what we all know to be a very corrupt situation. Our newly elected government is starting to sound like the arrogant Mr. Bush everyday. "We will stay the course" The rhetoric regarding supporting democracy and freedom is the biggest bunch of lies I have ever heard. They can't even knowledge "Hamas" who is a democratically elected Government. If Mr. Bush won't recognize "terrorists" "communist countries" "insurgents" "left wing policies" etc, then what's he doing trading with China and other Communist Countries? This republican Government should have been impeached a long time ago. They are ludricous, hypocritical, terrorists themselves and have brought much more hate, fear, torture, than any country in the Global Community.

Posted by: sherry | March 6, 2006 05:31 PM

Israel itself is the last apartheid country in the world. Perhaps I am an antisemite, but I feel horrified and depressed seeing what Israelis are doing in Palestina.

Posted by: Répás János Sándor | March 6, 2006 05:55 PM

Hahaha, its Rusofobia for Jeffrey Moley, hey could someone let him know that the cold war is over?

Posted by: Ivanov | March 6, 2006 08:08 PM


Good to see people like you challenging the US government in its disastrous foreign policy.

The US government needs actual people to fight (and die) in its ideological wars that usually kill a lot of innocent people. If the government can't find people to enlist in its army of death to kill foreign people, well that is a victory for the people of this planet.

It is not enough to challenge the political decisions/process that led to the war, there is a need to challenge the "militaristic mindset" in America, and the way millions of Americans are brainwashed to believe that killing other people and destroying other countries is just what soldiers are supposed to do.

As you might realize, the Vietnam war, with its more than 2 million dead people, millions of injured and maimed and physical destruction of Vietnam (through indiscriminate bombings and such), was not enough to change the American mindset towards war and military action. It changed it at the time but it was quickly forgotten.

There is still a disturbing/dangerous glorification of the military in civic education, media (especially movies) and politics.

The military must be held accountable and must be challenged like any other institution with no fear of being labeled a "traitor".

The soldiers also must understand that as adults they can't just blame everything on the political process.

They are the ones dropping the bombs and the ones pulling the trigger.

Posted by: Karim | March 7, 2006 11:56 AM

I find it interesting you mentioned Vietnam, because a lot of the issues surrounding the first and second gulf wars are, I believe, a direct result of this country's experiences and response to Vietnam. Many individuals, especially conservatives in government, believe that the US lost the Vietnam war due to the relatively uninhibited press coverage. At that time, there were scores of investigative reports who were unafraid to face not only the guns and the bombs from the enemy, but the political pressure and potential lawsuits from anyone they might criticize or expose (especially the US military).

I don't know if I'd go so far as to suspect a conspiracy, but it seems that the media has lost the backbone they had during Vietnam. Virtually every mainstream media outlet in the US, aside from public broadcasting, has a heavy bias to support the US government's decisions without question or disagreement. To do so, they fear, might be unpatriotic and therefore unpopular or even damaging to the country's goals.

Members of the media: This is your purpose in life! To question and probe and expose the truth for the rest of us who can't be there experiencing it directly for ourselves. It is your fair, unbiased reporting which allows the country to decide for itself! Without this idealism and nobility in effort, we are all truly lost sheep...

Posted by: mickey | March 7, 2006 02:30 PM

I need to know about Russia
but i canoot fin it

Posted by: Russia | March 7, 2006 02:40 PM

The news could tell you the world is ending tomorrow and you would believe it. Open your eyes. Sometimes those who are accusing others of deception are the true decievers.

Apparently blind faith is not just for the religious.

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