Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Putin?

David Rubin,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
David Rubin
David Rubin is former mayor of Shiloh, Israel. He is founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children"s Fund, and the author of five books, including The Islamic Tsunami and his latest, More Sparks From Zion. For more info, click on these links: www.DavidRubinIsrael.com or www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org...

 Americans are very concerned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s newly announced involvement in Syria, which may be one of the main motivations for U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement today that he is sending an initial fifty troops to Syria “to advise Syrian rebels in their struggle against ISIS”.  Should Israel be concerned about Putin, as well?

Perhaps the American concern is due to the stigma of what was once the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Russia, as the largest component of that now extinct Communist nation, is still seen by most Americans, as a fierce competitor of the United States, and that perception has only increased as the Obama administration has retreated from its role as the undisputed leader of the free world.

Putin is an unashamedly strong leader who has been increasingly asserting Russia’s strength on the world stage, and therefore, Russia’s reentry into the Middle East via Syria should come as no surprise. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s fifteen years of absolute rule has been under relentless attack since 2011 in what has evolved into a chaotic multi-front civil war, during which almost 300,000 people have been killed. Whatever one thinks of the dictatorial brutality of Assad, Putin sees him as an ally, and in his eyes, an ally should be supported, which partially explains his involvement in strongly buttressing the Assad regime.

Of course, there are other motivations. Putin, like most Western leaders has a Muslim problem, as the Islamic tsunami that is engulfing Europe is slowly making its way to his shores, including not so insignificant Muslim groups that already live within the Russian Federation, such as the Chechins and Tatars. Defeating Assad’s ISIS opponents would certainly be desirable from Putin’s perspective, as it could stem any infiltration of ISIS extremists among his already problematic Muslim minorities. Last but certainly not least, Putin is seizing the opportunity of American weakness to make a symbolic show of strength and influence in the Middle East

These are all understandable reasons for Putin’s involvement in Syria, but should Israel be concerned? Not really. Netanyahu met with Putin a couple of weeks ago in a clear ex‎pression of coordination, if not cooperation. It’s extremely unlikely that Putin would cross Israel’s red lines concerning Russian support for Assad, which shouldn’t be extended to encompass support for the Hezbollah terrorists who have assisted their ally Assad. As can be seen from yesterday’s Israeli strike on Hezbollah targets in Syria, Israel will continue to attack when needed.

As for Assad, do we really care if he regains power, but in a greatly weakened po‎sition? He is certainly not a friend of Israel, but he is probably better than the wealthy and quite extreme ISIS group. The nearly half-decade civil war in Syria has also revealed an additional hodgepodge of Sunni Muslim rebel groups, who are enemies of Assad, but also are enemies of Israel. This is the unfortunate reality here in the bad neighborhood that we call the Middle East.  Aside from the Kurds, who are fighting for autonomy in the northeastern region of Syria some distance from Israel, there is no potential ally for Israel.

In short, if my enemy is fighting my enemy, let the party continue and we need not shed any tears.

Meanwhile, we should quietly assist the Kurds from a distance and continue to keep a very close watch on the other side of our border, taking firm action when needed.