Avigdor Lieberman Goes to Russia

Clifford Levy reports on Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s trip to Russia where he had lots of high-level meetings and cordial discussions:

Israel’s new government has voiced its reservations about the United States’ new policies under President Obama in both of those areas, so Mr. Lieberman’s trip could easily be seen as a tactic — using his access in Russia to suggest that Israel might become less dependent on the United States and look to Moscow for support.

Even if it is just a bluff, his pivot toward Russia — which itself seeks a larger diplomatic role in the Middle East — adds one more element to a list of shifts under way in the region. All of these changes are traceable, to some extent, to reactions to Mr. Obama’s emphasis on improving relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds through diplomacy, and pressing Israel to stop the growth of settlements in the West Bank.

I don’t think you need to concoct anything as far-fetched as a total realignment of Israel’s great power relationships to see that this makes sense. For one thing, Lieberman speaks Russian. For another thing, where else is he going to go? The head of a quasi-fascist party elected on a platform of racial animosity isn’t a helpful front man for Israeli policies in the United States, he isn’t helpful in Western Europe, and he certainly isn’t helpful in Cairo or Ankara. But that’s not the kind of thing that would bother Vladimir Putin.


Last, it’s Russia more than the United States that could take practical steps against Iran that would actually be helpful to Israel. Will the Russians really do that? It’s hard to say. But it clearly seems worthwhile for Israel to explore the question of whether there’s something the Russians want from them.