Prince Saud Al-Feisal and President Putin in Moscow
With the world's headlines currently dominated by news from the Israeli-Hezbollah War, it's surprising how few English-language media outlets have noticed the statement President Putin delivered yesterday in Moscow, after his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud Al-Feisal. Putin said "Russia condemns any attempts to solve any problems through resorting to terrorism...the state of Israel has a right to live in peace and it should exercise it."
While Putin was visiting with the Saudi Minister, Chechen Prime-Minister Ramzan Kadyrov was visiting Russian youth organizations for a political summer session on Lake Seliger (located between Moscow and St Petersburg), where he announced that two more Chechen terrorist commanders have been neutralized; with one killed and another captured. Hozh-Ahmed Dushayev, the "Emir" of Kurchaloevsky Region and his partner were responsible for the most recent terrorist attacks in the now peaceful province of Russia.
Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov
Both stories demonstrate that, contrary to some analysts proclaiming a new Cold War, Russian domestic and foreign policies are in fact becoming more friendly towards the West. Out of Soviet-era habit, Russia almost always contradicted American foreign policy in the Middle East, and took the side of Israel's adversaries. Before the Beslan massacre, the State Department and American NGOs used to express sympathy for the Chechen "freedom fighters" -- but no more. As Russia Blog noted yesterday, the world has changed since the Cold War and Yeltsin eras. Oil and gas wealth has allowed Moscow to negotiate from a position of strength with the West, but this does not mean that the Kremlin wants confrontation with America, far from it - Russia just wants money and respect. Dollars from U.S. and multinational oil companies talk much louder than rhetoric about Putin crushing democracy from D.C. think tanks. Also, Russia sympathizes with countries fighting jihadists after waging its own bloody campaign for more than ten years against terrorists that wanted to create their own Islamic state throughout the Caucuses.
The Jerusalem Post, usually no fan of the Kremlin, observed today "in those circles in Jerusalem where statements from foreign capitals are read and parsed carefully, what stood out was that this was the message Moscow chose to underline following a meeting with the Saudi foreign minister." Israel is clearly happy with Moscow's decision to side against Hezbollah in the Lebanon conflict. The Jerusalem Post added that "Russia has taken a moderate line during the entire conflict. Had Putin so desired, he could have made things much more difficult for Israel at the G-8 in St. Petersburg, at Wednesday's conference in Rome, and at the UN in New York. That he hasn't done so has not gone unnoticed in Jerusalem."
I believe we are witnessing a huge positive turn in geopolitics, which should give us hope that all civilized countries are finally identifying their common enemy, the global jihad and those who fund it. More importantly, we are witnessing many young Muslims around the world turning against the jihadists, who are incapable of producing anything but more death and misery for their people. The successful counterinsurgency in Chechnya, which has reduced the terror attacks for the last six months in that region to almost zero, would have been impossible without tips provided by the local population. A few years ago, many ordinary Chechens, like the Iraqis today, either sympathized with the terrorists or were simply too scared to provide intelligence to security forces. Now the tide has turned, and international jihadists are finding Iraq or Afghanistan safer places to go than Chechnya, where they are quickly caught and killed.
Perhaps with strong logistical and financial support from the world community, the Lebanese Army can follow the successful example set by the Chechens, who are rebuilding their country, starting new businesses, and weeding out their unwanted guests. Chechnya shows that the terrorists in Lebanon and Iraq can be defeated - not by tanks and bombs, but by the human desire for money and a normal life.