Well done, Russia! Oh, how very well done.
Russia has said it will grant the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority urgent financial aid, in opposition to the policy of the EU and the US.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a telephone call, Moscow said.
Marvellous. Just as the US and EU, for once agreeing on something, looked as though they were standing firm on not supplying aid to a Hamas government until it recognises the right of Jews to live in the Middle East, Russia throws a lifeline to Islamic terrorists. Brilliant.
Firstly, a clarification. The US and EU are right to deny aid to Hamas, and they have every right to. Contrary to the bleating of idiots like Patrick Seale in the Gulf News that not funding Hamas is equal to blackmail and dismissal of the democratic process, the US and EU have fully recognised that the Palestinians have elected their government of choice and have made no effort to interfere in that choice. However, electing the government of your choice does not come with a right to have that government’s policies accepted and funded wholesale by anybody outside of the electorate. If the Middle East is going to adopt democracy as a workable model of government, the people need to understand that democracy entitles you only to be governed by your party of choice for a limited period, and nothing more. It does not entitle you to foreign aid and endorsement of party politics. And until Hamas accepts the right of Israel to exist, enlightened liberal democracies should exercise their right to stop funding their activities.
Which brings us on to Russia. For the last few years, much of Russia’s foreign policy has been a two step process:
1) See what the US is doing.
2) Do the opposite.
If this is Russia’s way of gaining friends and influence around the world, it will clearly work. But it will come at a price, as the USA has found following several decades of propping up dodgy dictatorships and funding terrorists in an effort to contain Communism. It will eventually come right around and bite Russia on the arse. But for now, it will win plenty of friends and influence in the Middle East. Granting aid to Hamas relieves the Arab states of having to dip into their own pockets to fund what could well become a threat to their own positions, but allows them to look on as Israel continues to be attacked. It will open the door to Russia to supply some juicy arms contracts over the next few years, and it will turn Muslims’ attention away from Russia’s brutal war against the Chechens (they hope). It also annoys the US and make them look like the bad guys. All of this at a cost to Russia of a few million dollars, which of course they don’t need anyway, and a few dead Jews on their conscience. Which has never been a problem before, I think we can all agree.
So what happens now? A prediction: the Gulf News will write a gushing article on Russia and how they are supporting the democratic process, and how they are so strong and brave in the face of Israeli pressure. The US will be denounced loudly. The UK’s Guardian and Independent will utter not a peep about the irony of having Russia supporting an Islamic terrorist organisation at the same time it is hosting the forthcoming G8 summit, nor will they mention the blindingly opportunistic stance Russia is taking on this issue, and the obvious reasons for it: flogging weapons and other kit to dodgy regimes. The articles concerned will be highlighting with smug satisfaction the frustration that the US now feels with the Russians, knowing that there’s nothing they can do about it.
And there isn’t much which can be done. Or maybe Israel should start funding “freedom fighters” in Chechnya and Dagestan, so they can carry out a few more Beslans? Maybe then Russia will realise the price attached to funding terrorist organisations.
Actually, there is one possibility which I have overlooked. Maybe Russia is agreeing to fund Hamas in order to give it more elbow room with which to pitch in with the US and EU against Iran. Perhaps Russia is playing a fairly clever game here, working its way into a position whereby it can pressure Iran without appearing to be anti-Islamic or too pro-American. Time will tell.