Russian Nationalists and Hardliners Denounce Alleged ‘Israel Lobby’ Influence in Moscow
In the two weeks since 15 Russian servicemen died when their military plane was downed over Syria, conservative, ultranationalist and communist circles in Russia have stepped up their rhetorical attacks on the alleged control of Moscow’s foreign policy by a so-called “Israel Lobby.”
A report published on Tuesday by the Russian Media Studies Project – a branch of the US-based think-tank, the Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) – highlighted recent claims by a former chief of staff of the Russian armed forces that his country was being compelled to “obey” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The fight will continue. Russia’s sovereignty is at stake here,” retired Russian Gen. Leonid Ivashov declared in a paper written for a prominent nationalist organization. “Either we obey Netanyahu — then personnel appointments and all the rest will continue to depend on the Israeli lobby.”
Ivashov’s remarks were published by the Izborsk Club – a nationalist grouping that brings together monarchists, conservatives and communists eager to reassert the Russian state as a global power. According to Areg Galstyan of The National Interest, Izborsk Club members “include the most prominent and influential politicians, such as Sergei Glazyev, the Russian president’s advisor on Eurasian integration; the Nobel-laureate scientist Zhores Alferov; popular writer Zakhar Prilepin; philosophers including [Alexander] Prokhanov and Alexander Dugin; the historians Natalia Narochnitskaya and Nikolai Starikov; and the journalists Maxim Shevchenko and Mikhail Leontyev.”
While refraining from direct personal criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ivashov indicated at several points in his paper that senior Russian military officials are unhappy with current security arrangements in Syria, where Israel continues to carry out air attacks against Iranian facilities and weapons convoys. The downing of the military plane on Sept. 17 occurred in the wake of an Israeli strike and was initially blamed squarely on Israel by the Russian Defense Ministry. Hours later, following a telephone conversation with Netanyahu, Putin deemed that the crash was the consequence of “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”
Accusing the Kremlin of “blurring” Israel’s responsibility for the loss of the plane, Ivashov argued that Russia should have taken instant steps to punish Israel, starting with the suspension of the visa-free travel agreement between the two nations.
“I don’t think that it was the [Russian] military who had reached an agreement with Israel to cooperate in order to prevent incidents in the air,” Ivashov continued. “This arrangement…allows the Israelis to invade Syrian air space and make strikes, i.e. commit acts of aggression. I am certain this was not decided by the military.”
Ivashov argued that while Russia’s military leaders were pushing back against alleged Israeli influence on foreign and defense policy, “I would not hasten to celebrate victory yet.”
“The pro-Israeli lobby permeates, in fact, all the administrative structures of the Russian Federation, plus the mass media, plus the oligarchs, etc.” Ivashov wrote. “But I am trying to find a deeper cause-and-effect relation: why does a strong pro-Israel lobby exist, why do we dance to Netanyahu’s tune?”
Ivashov laid the blame at the feet of Russian Jewish billionaires, citing by name Roman Abramovich, a member of Putin’s inner circle and the flamboyant owner of English Premier League soccer team, Chelsea.
“The fact is that the assets of those who had moved their billions…to the West, are now being arrested — and their owners are being arrested as well,” Ivashov charged. “But in Israel they are always welcome to stash their funds.”
Ivashov, whose thirty years of service to the Soviet military saw him rise to the rank of colonel-general, added that the presence of Netanyahu at the Victory Day parade in Moscow in April 2018 was a sign of Russia’s “humiliation.”
“I remember the way the Israeli national anthem resonated on the Red Square,” he wrote. “We must rise from this degraded state.”
While Ivashov has a long record of promoting outlandish conspiracy theories – most famously insisting that the Sept. 11, 2001 Al Qaeda atrocities in the US were carried out by “political and business circles interested in destabilizing the world order and who had the means necessary to finance the operation” – he is regularly quoted on military affairs by the Russian media, with frequent citations on English-language state broadcaster RT.
In a September interview with the leading Russian news agency Interfax, Ivashov claimed that joint military exercises being held with the Chinese military were prompted by new US sanctions targeting Russian individuals and businesses. Ivashov is also a stalwart defender of the Iranian regime, having praised its “counterterrorism” strategy for providing the world with “a model to follow.”