During the meeting held on June 7, 2016, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to start military cooperation between the two countries.
It is a historic decision which breaks the traditional link existing between the Israeli and the US Forces.
A change of strategic perspective by both countries, which significantly modifies the old, traditional postures inherited from the Cold War.
It marks the end of the Russian univocal support to the Arab countries, inherited from the XX CPSU Congress of 1956, to strengthen the “national middle classes” of the Islamic world. It also marks the end of the unique relationship between Israel and the United States, designed to oppose the USSR allies in the Middle East.
On the one hand, the relationship with the United States strengthened Israel at technological level but, on he other hand, it forced it into a strategic horizon typical of a small regional power, which is currently no longer reasonable.
The meeting held on June 7 was also attended by the Head of the military intelligence services, General Hertzi Halevi, and the Head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen.
Moreover, next summer joint Russian-Israeli naval and air operations will take place, with Russian aircraft and ships coming from the Syrian bases.
An economic and energy factor must also be considered: the Russian companies can participate in the development and exploitation of the Israeli Tamar and Leviathan fields.
Nevertheless, there is also a strategic factor to be considered: the Russian presence will prevent the fields and pipelines from becoming the target of attacks by Iran, the Hezbollah and Syria.
Obviously the naval and air cooperation is such as to protect both Israel and Russia from an inadvertent mix of military intelligence.
At operational level, the mechanism for exchanging information between Russia and Israel during the aerial warfare in Syria will be further strengthened and expanded. The strategic links at naval level will be established at a later stage.
Russia is a “traditional” great naval power, while Israel has a Navy characterized by light and fast response vessels.
An ideal mix.
Currently President Putin’s primary interest is to strengthen the ties between Israel and Turkey while, for Prime Minister Netanhyahu, Russia could be an optimal power brokers to negotiate and finally achieve stable and lasting peace between the Jewish State and the Palestinian universe.
Furthermore, Russia did not lift a finger when the Israeli air force attacked the convoys which went to supply the Shiite militias in the Syrian war.
Hence an alliance between Israel, Greece and Cyprus – also at geoeconomic and energy level – can be foreshadowed, which could change much in the EU financial and political scenario.
A European Union which, due to ignorance and foolishness, finds itself faced with an economic and geopolitical system in the South-East it cannot control.
If the European Union still maintains the sanctions against Russia, the strategically smart countries (indeed very rare now) will try to replace the old and naïve European Union, as Israel is currently doing.
The sanctions against Moscow are supposed to end on July 31, 2016, but the economic damage to European countries has been dramatic.
Russia is the third largest market for the European Union in terms of exports, while the trade balance between the EU and Russia has fallen from 326 to 285 billion euro.
Furthermore, harsh countermeasures have been taken by Russia: the extension of the internal market closure and the EU net loss are worth 11 billion euro approximately, which could reach 55 billion euro if sanctions continued.
Here is the strategic equation we were looking for: the European economy, which is already under crisis, becomes a useful test for a particularly strict US version of TTIP; Russia suffers a technological retreat in machine tools and in oil drilling machinery and equipment; the United States can start again the old game of the Cold War along the new borders between Europe and the Russian Federation.
It is a naive and shrewd geopolitical project at the same time.
However, what does Italy or France get in starting a confrontation in Ukraine?
From time immemorial it is mostly a Russian or russified country and, for Russia, it is the strategic guarantee of the regular crossing of its pipelines from the Caucasus to the Mediterranean. Finally it is a point for projecting the Russian interests between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea which, for Russia, cannot certainly be left to a generic “international force.”
It is also worth recalling that on January 1, 2016 Ukraine signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.
According to the latest data available, the trade between Ukraine and the European Union is equal to 20.4 billion euro. Hence, once again, this reveals the underlying strategic equation: Ukraine becomes a “replacement market” in lieu of the Russian Federation.
Moreover, currently China uses this channel to European markets very well. Hence we have another piece of Ukraine’s current geopolitical equation: if Russia takes no action, it will become the large hub between Central Asia and the European Union, thus bypassing Russia and making it marginal in world trade.
It was the great dream of Jeffrey Sachs from the World Bank, who had been called upon to solve the post-Soviet economic disaster.
But is it a realistic project? We think it is not and, indeed, we believe that Israel has been right in “replacing”, at least initially, the US Forces’ support with the Russian military support.
The United Sates are disengaging from the Middle East. Israel knows this all too well and is taking appropriate measures in this respect.
Nevertheless, apart from the TTIP issue, the United States are also retreating from Europe.
Moreover, as far as we know, the TTIP issue reminds of the old Year of Europe, devised by Henry Kissinger in 1973.
The underling idea was that the United States opened part of their markets to European products, but paid them with commercial paper to be discounted.
On the other hand, the Brexit issue is looming large. If, as the latest polls suggest, the Leave option is successful, the whole EU geopolitical structure will change.
We have already long elaborated on the Brexit impact, but there is a strategic factor to consider: if Britain leaves the EU, its ties with the United States will inevitably strengthen, and if Great Britain walks out of the European Union, before renegotiating the commercial treaties, it will be in a position to operate with aggressive policies on the markets.
Finally, if Great Britain leaves the European Union, we will have a much more markedly German-led European Union.
In short, any solution must be carefully considered – for the time being nothing is certain.
Giancarlo Elia Valori * (@GEliaValori)
* Presidente della merchant bank “La centrale Finanziaria Generale S.p.A.”
– Presidente della “Cattedra sugli studi della pace, la sicurezza e lo sviluppo internazionale presso la Facoltà di relazioni internazionali della Peking University, nonché “professore straordinario” di economia e politica internazionale nello stesso Ateneo
– Honorable dell’Académie des Sciences dell’Institut de France