Keyser-Soze.jpg

Vladimir Putin Knows His Baudelaire

Or maybe just his Keyser Soze. The devil’s greatest trick is convincing the world he doesn’t exist.

While the comments section of the New York Times op-ed page swoons over Putin’s schooling of the bewildered piker marking time in the White House, Russia is getting on with business, which is shoring up Iran as it accelerates toward nuclear capability. 

The Russian daily Kommersant reported yesterday that Russia has agreed to supply Iran with the long-delayed S-300 anti-aircraft missiles Iran ordered six years ago. (S-300s represent some of the most advanced aerial weaponry on earth.) Russia has also decided to build another nuclear reactor at Bushehr.

Putin will be in Teheran tomorrow (Friday) to work out the details with high-ranking Iranian officials, including Iran’s cuddly new faux-moderate President Hassan Rohani.

Now, let’s back up a little. It may very well be a good thing that the US will not (or probably will not) strike Syria. Certainly the potential downside for Israel of a US-assisted decisive rebel win, when those rebels contain jihadist elements of off-the-charts savagery, was enough to give one pause. But we should all be clear about what just happened. The Americans were conned by a master of the game.

And when you’re on top, you don’t let up. Thus the Russians are wasting no time laying out — in calm, diplomatic tones — the terms of extortion for a White House that does, admittedly, tend to need things to be spelled out. During a debate yesterday in the Russian parliament concerning a draft resolution on Syria, Alexei Pushkov, the chief of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, threatened that if the US does decide in the end to conduct a strike against Syria, Russia could increase its arms sales to Iran and “revise the terms of U.S.­ military transit to Afghanistan.” ”If the U.S. takes the path of exacerbating the situation and forgoing diplomacy for the sake of a military scenario, such measures would seem absolutely justified to me,” Pushkov said.

So what’s really going on here? Putin is exercising himself quite vigorously on behalf of the Iranians, conducting diplomatic master classes at the expense of the US president and providing an invaluable lifeline for Iran’s Syrian client. A big reason for this — one that tends to get lost in the shuffle amid all the talk about geopolitics and influence and warm water ports and global hegemony — is money. 

This S-300 deal with Teheran had been up in the air for a long time, but Putin only just decided to move the arms. Why? As a quid pro quo. Teheran had sued Rosoboronexport, the Russian state intermediary that oversees defense imports and exports, for $4 billion after Russia canceled an earlier contract for those same missiles. It’s simple, Putin told Teheran. Drop the lawsuit and you get the goods. 

If you’re wondering why Russia canceled the deal in the first place, the answer is another quid pro quo. Israel sold Russia a huge shipment of drones in exchange for stopping the S-300 transfer to Iran, a deal the Russians took presumably for the sake of acquiring the technology. So Israel is now back where she started — worse off, in fact, since Iran will get the missiles and Russia’s got the drones.

This missile deal, which is a footnote to the Syria story in most of the world, looms rather larger in Tel Aviv, and could have its own series of unforeseeable consequences. Netanyahu is concerned enough about these arms to have brought them up with the European foreign ministers in May. ”If the missiles are provided and become operational, Israel’s entire airspace will become a no-fly zone,” he said. “The missile transfer is a significant security challenge to Israel and we will not be able to stand idly by.”

That phrase might imply military action, but it might also imply more sub rosa dealmaking with the Kremlin, although such deals will probably become both more unlikely and more dangerous the stronger Putin’s hand becomes. The main thing we need to remember in all this is that Putin is beholden to no one but Putin. If we want this mess to end well, we’re going to need to find ways to make it worth his while.

That’s how it works when you’re on the wrong end of a protection racket.

  1. David Williamson

    Well, we were promised smart diplomacy – they forgot to mention it would be from the Russian maf.., er, I mean, government, rather than the US.

    But I wonder whether, secretly, Mr Obama is happy with the way things are going – after all, he has more freedom to play golf in his second term, doesn’t he?

  2. Orion
    Judith Levy, Ed.…That’s how it works when you’re on the wrong end of a protection racket. · · 1 hour ago

    Perfectly summed up Judith.

  3. skipsul
    David Williamson: Well, we were promised smart diplomacy – they forgot to mention it would be from the Russian maf.., er, I mean, government, rather than the US.

    But I wonder whether, secretly, Mr Obama is happy with the way things are going – after all, he has more freedom to play golf in his second term, doesn’t he? · 58 minutes ago

    Edited 57 minutes ago

    Playing golf while the world burns.

  4. J.Maestro
    Orion

    Judith Levy, Ed.…That’s how it works when you’re on the wrong end of a protection racket. · · 1 hour ago

    Perfectly summed up Judith. · 1 minute ago

    The “brain trust” that heads American policy never expected rackets. They came into power believing it was America that had been running the global rackets. Now they’re cowering at the trash-end of a dark alley.

    You’re exactly right about how evil can prevail when people start believing it’s not real. Totalitarianism too — recall how Obama explicitly insisted we ignore the voices that warn. Willful blindness? Or worse?

  5. Valiuth
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    If you’re wondering why Russia canceled the deal in the first place, the answer is another quid pro quo. Israel sold Russia a huge shipment of drones in exchange for stopping the S-300 transfer to Iran, a deal the Russians took presumably for the sake of acquiring the technology. So Israel is now back where she started — worse off, in fact, since Iran will get the missiles and Russia’s got the drones.

    Wait! Did you guys sell the Soviets, our drones? That is ones representing US technology? Or were these some Israeli made drones. What the heck is Israel thinking are your leaders that naive to think criminals like Putin actually keep their word?  

    This is a man who stole a Supper Bowl ring from a guest.

  6. Judith Levy, Ed.
    C
    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    If you’re wondering why Russia canceled the deal in the first place, the answer is another quid pro quo. Israel sold Russia a huge shipment of drones in exchange for stopping the S-300 transfer to Iran, a deal the Russians took presumably for the sake of acquiring the technology. 

    Wait! Did you guys sell the Soviets, our drones? That is ones representing US technology? 

    No.  Israel sold the Russians drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) , which is Israel’s main manufacturer of aviation and aerial systems (both military and non).

  7. Barbara Kidder
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    If you’re wondering why Russia canceled the deal in the first place, the answer is another quid pro quo. Israel sold Russia a huge shipment of drones in exchange for stopping the S-300 transfer to Iran, a deal the Russians took presumably for the sake of acquiring the technology. 

    Wait! Did you guys sell the Soviets, our drones? That is ones representing US technology? 

    No.  Israel sold the Russians drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) , which is Israel’s main manufacturer of aviation and aerial systems (both military and non). ·

    Perhaps IAI has sold the Russians a Trojan Horse…

  8. Mario the Gator
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    If you’re wondering why Russia canceled the deal in the first place, the answer is another quid pro quo. Israel sold Russia a huge shipment of drones in exchange for stopping the S-300 transfer to Iran, a deal the Russians took presumably for the sake of acquiring the technology. 

    Wait! Did you guys sell the Soviets, our drones? That is ones representing US technology? 

    No.  Israel sold the Russians drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) , which is Israel’s main manufacturer of aviation and aerial systems (both military and non). · 1 minute ago

    There is a silver-lining here.  Israel can now use those drones to bomb Iranian targets and claim it was the Russians who did it.

  9. Valiuth
    Barbara Kidder

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    If you’re wondering why Russia canceled the deal in the first place, the answer is another quid pro quo. Israel sold Russia a huge shipment of drones in exchange for stopping the S-300 transfer to Iran, a deal the Russians took presumably for the sake of acquiring the technology. 

    Wait! Did you guys sell the Soviets, our drones? That is ones representing US technology? 

    No.  Israel sold the Russians drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) , which is Israel’s main manufacturer of aviation and aerial systems (both military and non). ·

    Perhaps IAI has sold the Russians a Trojan Horse… · 4 minutes ago

    That would make me feel a lot better, but I imagine the Russians dismantled the things right away to copy them you can’t hide everything even if you have them some lemons. 

  10. James Of England
    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    were these some Israeli made drones. What the heck is Israel thinking are your leaders that naive to think criminals like Putin actually keep their word?  

    This is a man who stole a Supper Bowl ring from a guest. ·

    Empowering Russia is unfortunate. Allowing Iran to comfortably develop and feel secure in deploying nuclear weapons is an existential issue for Israel. If Iran destroys, say, Tel Aviv, enough Jews would leave for the country to become indefensible. If the US would step up, Israel wouldn’t be forced to make these distasteful and unfortunate decisions, but that’s not the world we live in.

  11. Valiuth
    James Of England

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    were these some Israeli made drones. What the heck is Israel thinking are your leaders that naive to think criminals like Putin actually keep their word?  

    This is a man who stole a Supper Bowl ring from a guest. ·

    Empowering Russia is unfortunate. Allowing Iran to comfortably develop and feel secure in deploying nuclear weapons is an existential issue for Israel. If Iran destroys, say, Tel Aviv, enough Jews would leave for the country to become indefensible. If the US would step up, Israel wouldn’t be forced to make these distasteful and unfortunate decisions, but that’s not the world we live in. · 0 minutes ago

    I can see the situation Israel is in, but really I don’t think feeding the wolves will really save you. What happens when you run out of meat to throw them? Maybe they think they can stall for time until the US gets its (expletive) together. I would rather prefer it if they could give us a good slap to help us get our head back on straight. 

  12. Tuck

    Elections have consequences.  Pity we have to learn that the hard way…

  13. James Of England
    Valiuth

    James Of England

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    I can see the situation Israel is in, but really I don’t think feeding the wolves will really save you. What happens when you run out of meat to throw them? Maybe they think they can stall for time until the US gets its (expletive) together. I would rather prefer it if they could give us a good slap to help us get our head back on straight.  · 3 hours ago

    Russia isn’t Israel’s chief problem. There’s no principled reason they shouldn’t keep throwing them meat in perpetuity. Obviously there’s times (like now) that Israel fails to get good value from bribing Putin, but that’s just arguing the numbers, not a principle.

  14. 3rd angle projection

    What are the odds of those IAI drones or facsimiles landing in the hands of Iran?

  15. Valiuth
    James Of England

    Valiuth

    James Of England

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    Russia isn’t Israel’s chief problem. There’s no principled reason they shouldn’t keep throwing them meat in perpetuity. Obviously there’s times (like now) that Israel fails to get good value from bribing Putin, but that’s just arguing the numbers, not a principle. · 1 hour ago

    Its foolish, to empower the Russians in any way. They are undermining us (basically their only friend) by helping the Russians out. The Russians aren’t going to lift a finger to preserve Israel and they are the backers of Israels direct enemies.  The civilized west should offer a united front towards the Russians and the whole totalitarian posse they lead.  

  16. James Of England
    Valiuth

    James Of England

    Valiuth

    James Of England

    Valiuth

    Judith Levy, Ed.

    Russia isn’t Israel’s chief problem. There’s no principled reason they shouldn’t keep throwing them meat in perpetuity. Obviously there’s times (like now) that Israel fails to get good value from bribing Putin, but that’s just arguing the numbers, not a principle. · 1 hour ago

    Its foolish, to empower the Russians in any way. They are undermining us (basically their only friend) by helping the Russians out. The Russians aren’t going to lift a finger to preserve Israel and they are the backers of Israels direct enemies.  The civilized west should offer a united front towards the Russians and the whole totalitarian posse they lead.   · 44 minutes ago

    I’m sure that if a united front with the US were available, Israel would be on that. Since the US doesn’t give them that as a responsible option, the united front is essentially unavailable. Also, recall that Israel has a complicated and intimate history with Russia, far more so than the US.