Putin's three-day visit to the Middle East began in Cairo on Tuesday and includes stops in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It is the first visit of a Russian/ Soviet head of state to Egypt since Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev attended the funeral of Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1970. It is also the first ever visit by a Kremlin chief to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"The Soviets were always keen on the Middle East. The region was practically their backyard. Today the Russians, under Putin, are trying to regain their presence, if not influence, in the Middle East," says Reda Shehata, a former Egyptian ambassador to Russia.
"I believe that we have to get in direct contact with Arab countries, starting with Egypt," Putin told Al- Ahram 's Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Nafie in an interview
"We are neighbours with the Arab world. We have to work on strengthening our relations," Putin said during a speech delivered yesterday at the Arab League.
Addressing representatives of the 22 Arab states, Putin joined his host, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, in stressing that it is up to Moscow and Arab capitals to show that their once strong ties are not a thing of the past.
But can Russia build the kind of ties the Soviet Union once had with the Arab world? Unlikely, is the answer offered by many diplomats.
"Russia is an important country," said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is a growing player on the international scene and is a nuclear power -- even if not a strong one. But Russia is economically weak and politically ineffective. Only a few days ago [US Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice was in Moscow lecturing the Russians on democracy."
Many Arab diplomats agree. So entrenched is US hegemony, they argue, that most Arab capitals, including those close to Moscow, are politically and economically dependent on Washington's goodwill.
Nor do the Arab world's most senior officials have much taste for things Russian. "They prefer the US. Going to Washington is the high point of their diplomatic agendas. They buy houses on the West Coast of the US and they have medical treatment in American hospitals," said the diplomat.
Speaking of Condi, she was recently in Bogota to counter the Chavez blustering.
Elsewhere in the Americas, say Texas.
All thats fair enough. But Quillnews urges all to take a closer look at the realities that are obscured by the fancy in these snap shots of simple human courtesy. The US, acting virtually on its own initiative with only its closest blood brothers-in-arms as allies, responded to a single attack Sept 11 and destroyed the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and changed the on-the-ground behavior of Pakistan, India, Syria, Lebanon, Libya. Bush 43 did this with a working majority of the American electorate, and all the while under relentless attack by his political opponents who, despite all efforts for two years, were unable to shake the American peoples support of the war. Adullah knows his society has spawned a murderous enemy and ideology that has been growing for years and nurtured by his people and their clerics. Imagine what the American people would do to Abdullah's kingdom if the homeland of the US or its allies were hit a second time!!!
While further East, more about China's "spontaneous public" demonstration against Japan.
US ascendant, ME turning west, Russia struggling, China consolidating, Chavez to be contained. And what of Europe? What of Europe?