One cold war was bad enough. Do the current rulers of the Russian Federation really want another one? That's the question many observers were pondering following a recent speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he threw down a challenge to American foreign policy on virtually every important front.
Washington wisely decided not to be baited by Putin and the story quickly died. After all, despite its size and strategic position, today's Russia is still economically and militarily weak when compared to the United States. But strength is relative and though it has worked hard to maintain good relations with Putin, friends of Israel should be deeply concerned by Russia's decision to align itself with the Hamas leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
Moscow allowed itself to be used as a backdrop for yet another Hamas pledge never to recognize Israel this week when the Islamist group's leader Khaled Meshaal said as much during a public chat with the Russian foreign minister. The Russian responded with his own pledge to work to get Europe to recognize the coalition of Hamas with Fatah and to get financial support for this travesty flowing.
With Russia and France now ready to abandon Europe's hitherto principled stand against recognition and aid for a terrorist government wilting, the United States must stand its ground. So far, the Bush administration has indicated it will not allow itself to be gulled into accepting the fiction that a coalition of Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party is anything but a ploy to restart the aid.
But with pressure mounting from "moderate" Arab governments for America to do something for the Palestinians in order to lessen hostility to our presence in Iraq, the temptation to go along with the Europeans will grow.
A revived Russian diplomatic foray into the region only promises more trouble on a host of fronts. Though Russia's primary aim seems to be to undermine the United States rather than to work to destroy Israel, the results of their lack of support for action against Iran's nuclear ambitions and the momentum they have lent to the push for recognition of Hamas is dangerous enough.
Another cold war with Moscow, and all it entails, is not yet here. But Russia's mischief-making cannot be taken lightly by anyone who hopes for peace or stability in the region.