Russian President Vladimir Putin (European)
A surprise and quick visit, and intensive talks, conducted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a Middle East tour, which included Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, following the summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries - which was hosted in the Qatari capital Doha - and the UAE's hosting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change "COP28", all of this, in light of the Israeli aggression, the most violent in its history against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Perhaps what is remarkable about this Russian visit is that it was not announced, and it was not paved for it, as we used to in Putin's previous tours to be talked about, and prepared for at least months or weeks in advance, but this visit was approved approximately a day or two ago, and this makes it one of his most prominent visits to the Middle East, and it is also greater than just attending the COP28 summit.
This visit is one of the most dangerous at a time when the region is rippling with all these events, political and security changes. If the goal were to coordinate between countries on oil and production cuts, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and representatives of the Russian giant Gazprom would be sent.
If the purpose of the visit was to work towards a temporary de-escalation of the Gaza war or to propose a preliminary peace map in the region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would have been the visit.
But the files carried by a person such as Russian President Putin are bigger than that, and perhaps the focus of the intractable crisis in the Middle East and the world since 1948, which is the Palestinian issue, especially since after President Putin's visit and his return to Moscow, he met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, and discussed the same issues related to the security of the Middle East and the global economy, according to what was indicated by various media.
Russia is the first country in the world to recognize "Israel" as a state definitively, during the days of the Soviet Union, and according to official data, more than two million people of Russian origin live in the occupation state, and during the period between 1989 and 2006, about 979 thousand Russians moved to Israel, and these became influential players in drawing politics and security in "Israel", and they have very great influence, so much so that one of the extremist rabbis considered that what happened on October 7 is the result that those who rule "Israel" are remnants of The Soviets, meaning the Russian-Jews.
Moscow has a political current that it indirectly supports, namely the right-wing Yamina or Jewish Home party led by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and the secular liberal Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid, as well as a group of centrist and left-wing parties in Israel, and therefore its influence cannot be underestimated within the corridors of Israeli politics.
Russia's recent position has made Moscow acceptable to Palestinians from all directions, in addition to its diplomatic approach making it acceptable on the Israeli street.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was the first to try to mediate with Moscow after the outbreak of war with Ukraine, and it still has another strong ally now, former war minister and current war council member Benny Gantz, whom she sees as the next prime minister.
Since the beginning of the "Al-Aqsa Flood", Russia has stood with the Palestinians in its statements, and considered the October 7 event an inevitable result of the policies of Israeli governments, specifically the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, against the Palestinians, as the latter burned all his boats with the Russians after the arrival of US President Donald Trump to the White House.
On several occasions, the Russian leadership has stressed that the American solution to the incomplete Palestinian issue must end, and a new solution must be sought that revives the two-state solution and ends Palestinian suffering.
Hamas' relationship with the Russian leadership has developed significantly in the past years, and during the recent prisoner exchange, the Palestinian resistance released two female prisoners of Russian nationality, and the movement said that it carried out this order in response to the intervention of the Russian president, and did not clarify what these efforts were made by Putin at the time. After the release, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its gratitude to Hamas for responding to its urgent calls for their release.
Russia's recent balanced position has made Moscow acceptable to the Palestinians from all directions, in addition to its diplomatic approach that has made it acceptable on the Israeli street, especially since its allies in Tel Aviv trust it and realize the value of the Russian role in the region.
The Russian security and strategic approach put forward by President Putin in his tour - in which officials in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi discussed - is the essence of working to stop this grinding war comprehensively in Gaza and its surroundings, pumping urgent humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip, and the importance of building on the issue of prisoners, to be the beginning of a long truce this time, by completing the exchange process for the rest of the prisoners, without whitewashing Israeli prisons, which Tel Aviv completely rejects.
And then go towards a new government in the occupation entity led by Gantz and his current away from the arbitrariness of the extreme right, which no longer has any real popular or elite support within the occupation state.
This vision reasonably intersects with what the Biden administration wants, because the occupation entity is actually making progress on the ground in the Gaza Strip, but it will not end Hamas, and this prolongs the war and its bills from innocent civilians, and increases pressure on Biden to end it, after Washington gave the Israelis a specific deadline, until the end of this year, to end military operations in Gaza.
As for the Gaza Strip, the Russian leadership may think that it is better to govern the Gaza Strip with a new Palestinian Authority away from the current one, and in agreement with Hamas, provided that its weapons are not compromised, especially since governing a national liberation movement is a burden rather than a benefit, and perhaps this conviction has been reached by the movement's leaders, who now prefer to devote themselves to the conflict with the occupation entity, instead of ruling only.
These Russian theses, and some other details – such as the signing of important military, security and economic agreements with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, the coordination and development of relations in light of security risks, and international sanctions on Moscow – lead to say that the Arab countries have become aware that the United States of America is no longer the same, and therefore it is important to search for other partnerships with the Russians and the Chinese in particular, in addition to that the Gulf countries seek to adopt more balanced policies with the shaking of Washington's image in the world and the region.
In the context of these considerations, Putin's tour amid the storm and its repercussions will have an aftermath, not only on the course of bilateral relations between Russia and the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which he visited, but also on the nature and presence of the Russian role in a vital region such as the Middle East, and on the future of its strategic issues, foremost of which is the Palestinian cause, the crisis of the international conflict in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and others.
At the same time, President Putin presents his vision and Arab engagement with it to the Iranian president, especially since Tehran represents a major power that has its military and political weight and tools in the region.
Moscow has presented two military cards to Tehran in the past to ensure its security after any future settlement: the first was the entry of the Iranian destroyer Dilman into the Caspian Sea, which Moscow did not allow before, and the second, the announcement by Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Mehdi Farhi that his country has completed the purchase of Mil-28 attack helicopters, Sukhoi-35 fighter jets, and Yak-130T training aircraft to be included in the combat units of the Iranian army.
Without a doubt, the Russians' geostrategic sphere is closely linked to the Iranians and the state of the Middle East and what is happening in it, but Tehran always requires that the Palestinian street, represented by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, agree to any settlement concerning Palestine, and that this settlement be far from freezing or withdrawing the weapons of the resistance.
Thus, there will be no Palestinian deportation from Gaza, as happened in Lebanon in 1982, and victory in Gaza is the main motivation towards achieving the equation of a Palestinian state.
Perhaps it can be seen from the above that the Russian visit, with its dimensions, is accepted by Hamas, and therefore we can know that this initiative is realistic and not exclusionary, especially for Hamas, which is witnessing great popularity in the Palestinian street at the level of the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Thus, either there will be Russian success in light of these opportunities – and the Russian gains will be, not in the Ukrainian provinces that it annexed, obtaining Western recognition under Israeli pressure, and access to warm waters that it dreamed of positioning itself in its marinas and ports for a long time, but in a strong security, economic and military presence that competes with Western countries in the Middle East – or a failure of the initiative, imposed by the Israeli far-right policy led by Benjamin Netanyahu in its criminality and its barbaric and destructive war in Gaza to uproot the Palestinian people. Putin has other words and planning.