How the Russian-Ukrainian conflict affects the Middle East

We like to think that what happens on the other side of the world has nothing to do with us, so we ought to keep our heads down and just stay out of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Unfortunately, international crises have a way of sending out their ripples to influence other conflicts around the world.

Russian troops on Saturday prepared to assault a Ukrainian military compound in Belbek, in Crimea. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

For example, we learn that the EU has promised a huge aid package to Israel and the Palestinians in the unlikely event of peace breaking out. However, the EU can’t even secure its own backyard, with Putin’s Russia invading and annexing Crimea, and now threatening the rest of Ukraine. Who knows where his ambitions will lead next?

As Sarah Honig asks, how can any American or EU promises to Israel be taken seriously?

When the USSR broke up, some of its former republics, like the Ukraine, ended up with massive nuclear stockpiles. The West, justifiably anxious, sought to convince the newly independent Ukraine to disarm. These efforts reached fruition in 1994 and the Ukraine’s reward was that America and Britain guaranteed its security and territorial integrity. In other words, they undertook to come to the Ukraine’s aid, should anyone threaten it. That anyone could be no other than Russia.


It should have been clear from the outset that Kiev’s unrest could in the very least produce troublesome ramifications vis-à-vis Crimea, which is hardly part and parcel of the Ukraine. It was awarded to the Ukraine in 1954 by the then-Communist chief Nikita Khrushchev, himself a Ukrainian. As long as the Ukraine was an integral component of the USSR this scarcely mattered. Afterwards it mattered hugely.

The amateurish and slipshod comprehension of crucial complexities in the Russian sphere reflects the Americans’ and Europeans’ systemic misreading of exasperating situations elsewhere – from Israel’s existential woes to Iran and North Korea. Disconcerting enough in and of itself, ineffectual crisis-management is bound to lead to fiascoes.


Israel’s sole safeguards are to be guarantees disturbingly similar to those supplied the Ukrainians. What now unfolds in the Crimea should serve as a thunderous warning against placing ourselves at the mercy of apparent allies. Here, but for the grace of God, go we.

Putin plays chess while Obama plays checkers

Furthermore, another problem with huge implications for Israel, let alone the West: Russia has threatened to change its stance on Iran if the West sanctions them over their annexation of Ukraine.

Russia warned the West on Wednesday that it may revise its stance in the Iranian nuclear talks in an act of retaliation over the West’s sanctions on it, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the Interfax news agency, that Russia did not want to use the Iranian nuclear talks to “raise the stakes,” but may have to do so in response to the actions by the United States and the European Union.


Ryabkov, who is Russia’s envoy to the Iranian talks, said Wednesday that Russia considers the “reunification” with Crimea as far more important than the developments surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.

Russia has cooperated with the United States and other Western nations in the Iranian talks, but Ryabkov warned that its attitude may now change.

“We wouldn’t like to use these talks as an element of the game of raising the stakes taking into account the sentiments in some European capitals, Brussels and Washington,” he said, according to AP.

“But if they force us into that, we will take retaliatory measures here as well. The historic importance of what happened in the last weeks and days regarding the restoration of historical justice and reunification of Crimea with Russia is incomparable to what we are dealing with in the Iranian issue,” said Ryabkov.

Gotta love that vaguely threatening, Mafia-like language. One can but admire the adept way the Russians out-manoeuvred the West, and watch in dismay as the West allows itself to be out-manoeuvred.

UN - Useless Nations

UN – Useless Nations

Meanwhile it was Anti-Israel Day yesterday in the UN again (is there any other kind?) with five anti-Israel resolutions being debated at the Human Wrongs Rights Council:

During the UNHRC’s entire 25th session this month, it is voting on only one resolution on Syria even though over 120,000 people have been killed in its ongoing civil war. Similarly there was only one resolution against the regime in Tehran which has executed over 80 people this year.

The non-governmental group UN Watch, has already published the texts of the anti-Israel resolutions in advance of a 1 p.m. deadline to submit them to the council for debate this afternoon.

Among the five anticipated resolutions that focus on Israeli human rights violations in east Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights, is one that speaks of the illegality of member states and businesses participating in settlement activity including in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. It adds that such activity should cease.

The resolution calls on member states “to take appropriate measures to ensure that businesses domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements, respect human rights throughout their operations, by taking all necessary steps— including by terminating their business interests in the settlements—to ensure that their activities do not have an adverse impact on the human rights of the Palestinian people.”

Again, we can easily dismiss the rantings of the UN and its absurd resolutions, but the ramifications for the people of the region are enormous. They see dictators and despots literally get away with murder while democratic Israel is consistently condemned – and what lesson do these nations learn? That crime pays, and murder pays dividends.

What? Me? Agree to end the conflict? Ha ha ha!

An item which has flown quietly under the radar was Mahmoud Abbas’s defiant announcement to Obama ruling out any “end-of-conflict” clause in any deal signed by Israel. In which case, as David Hazony points out, what is the point of Israel negotiating, or signing any deal at all? How can anyone expect Israel to hand over land or tangible assets to an entity that refuses to declare the conflict over.

Foreign Ministry workers protesting last summer

And to top it all off, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has gone out on a full-blown strike, with offices and consular missions closed throughout the world, and diplomats not even presenting counter-arguments at the UN or other international institutions:

Foreign Ministry employees declared a general strike on Sunday, following two weeks of renewed sanctions. The strike is expected to close down the country’s foreign missions and totally paralyze the Israeli diplomatic system.

For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, 103 Israeli missions abroad will be completely closed for an indefinite period of time, as will the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem.

The strike was called in protest of the employment conditions of Israeli diplomats and the Finance Ministry’s decision to cut their salaries over the renewed sanctions.


Foreign Ministry sources said that the missions abroad would be completely closed and that security officers were instructed to prevent entrance to all, including officials from the defense ministry, the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad, Shin Bet security service and other government ministries.

The Jerusalem headquarters will be locked over the course of the strike and entry will be denied to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Director-General Nissim Ben-Sheetrit.


The exceptions committee dealing with requests by Israeli citizens or private companies affected by the action will continue to operate for the duration of the strike, but only for cases in which lives are in danger. The committee can be contacted at

Under the sanctions declared two weeks ago, diplomats halted all consular services to Israelis, such as issuing passports or visas at Israeli missions overseas. They have also stopped handling official visits, whether by Israeli officials overseas or by foreign officials to Israel.

In response to the sanctions, the Treasury docked the salaries of Foreign Ministry employees. Following that, the workers’ union instructed administration officers at all foreign missions to continue paying for the housing of Israeli diplomats and to pay salary advances to all employees.


The strike is even affecting visits by foreign dignitaries:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced last week to cancel what his office termed a “historic” visit to Latin America planned for April, after his bureau encountered many difficulties in making the necessary arrangements due to the diplomats’ sanctions, which include a blanket refusal to help cabinet ministers organize trips abroad.

The diplomats also refused to handle British Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit last week (though he came anyway), and are now refusing to cooperate on preparations for the pope’s visit to Israel in May. A Vatican delegation that was supposed to have visited Israel to work on the arrangements canceled its trip as a result, and it is now uncertain whether the pope’s visit will take place.

The diplomats have also stopped handling political appointments to ambassadorships, issuing diplomatic passports, transmitting diplomatic cables to intelligence and defense agencies, promoting economic and trade agreements and engaging in public diplomacy. Thus, for instance, Israeli missions abroad refused to disseminate any of the government’s talking points about the Iranian arms ship that Israel captured earlier this month, or to brief politicians and journalists in their host countries about it.

In addition, the diplomats have severed contact with UN institutions in New York, Geneva and Vienna, refusing even to attend Security Council debates or participate in votes. Consequently, Israel’s UN mission lodged no complaint with the UN sanctions committee on Iran over the capture of the Iranian arms ship, and without such a complaint, no international investigation can be opened on the matter.

This situation would be farcical if it weren’t so dangerous. And let us be clear, Israel’s international and diplomatic standing is as vital to its interests as its army and air force.

On the other hand, considering the miserable job some of our Foreign Ministry officials have done until now (Ron Prosor one of the notable exceptions), maybe the strike may not be such a bad thing after all.

This entry was posted in International relations, Mideast news and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to How the Russian-Ukrainian conflict affects the Middle East

  1. JudyPT says:

    I think it is disgraceful that the foreign office workers are holding the country to ransom with this open ended strike.Do they not realise how vulnerable we are in the anti semitic arena ,(see all the spiteful resolutions above) Surely there must be some sort of arbitration to sort out this mess.Can there not be back to work orders like when essential people like hospital staff and police are forced back to work?This action is world wide and our enemies must be rubbing their hands in glee.

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree. It’s dangerous but also mystifying behaviour on the part of the Treasury. They really have not been treating the Foreign Ministry people well. I don’t know what the solution is, maybe compulsory arbitration like you suggest, but certainly strikes should be forbidden, just like the army.

  2. We should had never recognized the current Ukrainian government because, for one thing, we are not ready to go on the mat for it, and that Russia will chop off Crimea and possibly more was predictable.

    • anneinpt says:

      It was predictable only for those watching Russia. And it looks like the US administration was watching a fly on the wall, or paying too close attention to how many houses the Israelis were building on a barren hilltop in Samaria, to be bothered with a minor irritant like Russia or Ukraine.

  3. Betty says:

    Sack them all and start again with new staff. Charge them all with treason!,,,!,,,! It’s is the equivalent of the IDF going on strike. It is as if they are giving aid and sustenance to the enemy . How can they be trusted !!!’

    • anneinpt says:

      I don’t think it’s that easy that you can fire them. These are highly trained people with years of experience behind them. But you’re quite right that going on strike is beyond the pale.

  4. Dafna Yee says:

    I agree with Betty! I think that all diplomatic offices going on strike in response to Israel’s enemies’ sanctions is aiding and abetting Israel’s enemies, otherwise known as TREASON!!! Especially now when Israel is in a diplomatic crisis with anti-Israel Obama and obedient Netanyahu dithering over giving away more of Israel while dealing with a “peace partner” who is still sworn to destroy Israel from his terrorist days as Arafat’s right hand and with anti-Semitism on the rise all over the world. I hope there is some way to handle this situation quickly and with as little damage to Israel as possible but I’m terribly frightened! God bless and save Israel!!

    • anneinpt says:

      I wouldn’t go as far as being frightened but it is certainly a worrying situation. I would hope that the two sides are in negotiations as we speak. I hope cooler heads prevail and the situation rights itself ASAP.

  5. peteca1 says:

    the failure of the EU to do anything about Crimea and the Ukraine speaks volumes. old institutions are literally CRUMBLING before our eyes.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      The EU has never been a particularly efficient organization. The only thing it knows how to do is make stupid legislation that makes peoples’ lives more complicated. The last thing they know how to cope with is complicated international relations. This is because old loyalties die hard. The French, Germans, British, Dutch and all the other smaller countries all have different histories and different interests – which makes sense considering their different borders, religions, cultures etc. The EU might, maybe, be a useful economic tool, but I can’t ever see it becoming one union like the USA.

  6. peteca 1,vew is true old institutions are going down .

Comments are closed.