President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has long cast himself as a friend of Israel and the Jewish people.
He helped establish visa-free travel between Russia and Israel in 2008, presided over the construction of a sprawling Moscow Jewish Museum in 2012 and, side by side with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2020, unveiled a memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany’s siege of Leningrad.
But amid the worst attack on Israel in 50 years, the high regard that Mr. Putin has shown for Israel in the past appears remarkably absent. More than three days after the start of the incursion by Hamas, there has been no message of condolence from the Kremlin, even though Mr. Putin previously published such notes of sympathy in the wake of terrorist attacks in Israel.
And he has not yet called Mr. Netanyahu, even though he spoke with Israeli leaders at least 11 times in 2022 and developed a close relationship with Mr. Netanyahu over more than a decade of meetings and phone calls.
Instead, in his first brief comments on the attack, Mr. Putin took a swipe at the United States, without expressing any sympathy for Israeli suffering.
“This is a clear example of the failure of United States policy in the Middle East,” Mr. Putin said on Tuesday in a televised meeting at the Kremlin with Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the Iraqi prime minister.
Rather than find a compromise amenable to both sides, Mr. Putin went on, Washington acted “each time without taking into account the fundamental interests of the Palestinian people.”
On Russian state television and in the pro-Kremlin blogosphere, commentators have reacted to the attack on Israel with thinly veiled glee, casting it as a revelation of Western weakness and as the start of a war that could sap Western support for Ukraine.
The stark shift sheds light on one consequence of Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: the sharp decline in the relationship between Moscow and Israel over the past year and a half, one that some Jewish leaders fear also presages a rise in antisemitism inside Russia. [Continue reading…]