October 16, 2023 | New York Post

Putin’s cynical offer to mediate in the Middle East is a farce

October 16, 2023 | New York Post

Putin’s cynical offer to mediate in the Middle East is a farce

Following the largest Middle East escalation in decades, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to mediate the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“What matters now is to stop the bloodshed,” he said. “Russia is ready to coordinate with all constructive partners.”

Moscow’s cynical offer should be understood for what it is: a farce.

The dictator held calls Monday with the leaders of Israel, Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Syria, saying he wants to secure a ceasefire.

Within 90 minutes of Putin’s call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian ambassador to Moscow called on Hamas to release hostages — and the terrorist group then claimed it would release non-Israeli hostages when conditions allowed.

Was that really all by chance?

Russia is offering to reprise its role as the nation that settles conflicts while simultaneously escalating and de-escalating them to suit its own objectives.

Though there’s no clear-cut evidence of its direct involvement in Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel, we do know for certain Russia, an Iranian ally, has spent years currying favor with Islamic radicals, with Hamas delegations visiting Moscow this year and last.

Russia is the clear beneficiary of the fresh outbreak of violence, as it has reset the media’s focus from Ukraine to the Middle East, which also gives congressional Republicans a way to argue aid to Ukraine must be halted — as it must instead be sent to Israel.

Putin attempting to arbitrate crises, particularly those of his own making, is a tactic he’s used for years.

Russia frequently escalates and then de-escalates conflicts, using the resolution to bargain as his “carrot” with the West and the threat of the situation further spiraling as his “stick.” 

This all feeds the Kremlin’s “crisis-propaganda-for-export,” which portrays Russia as a peace-loving country while demonizing the West as a belligerent, destabilizing force — something billions of people around the world believe.

In the past month, Putin has offered to mediate multiple crises, not only the one in the Middle East.

Just a couple weeks ago, Putin proposed to intervene between Armenia and Azerbaijan after their clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the crisis resulting from Serbia’s military buildup around Kosovo, Russia made clear its approval is necessary for any solution.

Yet rather than guarantee the peace, when relations reached a near boiling point after Serbian gunmen attacked a Kosovar village, Russia stoked the chaos that then began to flame in the region.

Earlier, Putin sought to cast Russia as a mediator in conflicts in Syria, Africa and on the Korean peninsula. 

So what propaganda card is Putin playing by stirring up trouble while portraying himself as a peacemaker if Western observers can see through the fog of lies?

They’re not the Kremlin’s primary target audience: The goal is to manipulate the Global South, whose support Moscow so desperately needs.

Russia hopes to exploit these relationships to expand its economy and its global political capital — and gather allies for its war on Ukraine.

This year, Putin hosted a second Russia-Africa Summit, and his foreign minister toured Latin America — in both cases exploiting the history of colonialism to paint the West as nefarious.

And the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held an August summit in Johannesburg.

Russia and China are using these groups to undermine the West and sell the false promise of a multipolar world.

Westerners should understand they are not in competition with Russia in the Global South but in the information space.

Kremlin-financed RT and Sputnik “news” routinely brand Russia as a global force for good, bringing peace and security wherever it goes.

They signal it is, in fact, the West — namely the United States — behind the unraveling of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

United Nations vote after vote shows Russia’s propaganda has been effective in persuading the Global South the Kremlin is the “good guy” in global affairs, standing up to the warmongering West.

We can expect this to worsen as Russia continues to inspire new instabilities across the globe unless American and European partners develop a strategy to spread the truth that Russia is not a mediator in global conflicts — it is an arsonist in the guise of a firefighter.  

It is naïve and deeply misguided to expect Russia to create stability in the Middle East. It benefits from the chaos and will encourage further escalations when it suits its interests.

Putin is an agent of chaos — Western countries would do well not to let the fox guard the henhouse.

Ivana Stradner is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Jason Smart is a special correspondent for Ukraine’s Kyiv Post.


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