Moscow Steps in Where Madmen Fear to Tread
But Bush did go into Iraq. He also backed anti-Russian politics in Georgia and Ukraine, challenged Russian influence in Moldava and threatens to escalate the Iran nuclear crisis into war. With the arrival of Hamas to power, the United States rushed to isolate the new political masters of Palestine.
Perhaps Russia has grown tired of Cheney's ideologically-driven policies and has opted for pragmatism. In any case, at the conclusion of a two-day visit to Madrid, Russia announced that it would invite Hamas leaders to Moscow for talks --much to the ire of Washington.
Below is a Agence France Presse analysis (translated --sorry, no link, it's in the subscribers' section). There is also a columnin in Madrid's El Mundo concerning the announcement.
ANALYSIS Putin raises the prestige of Russia at little cost
Reuters 10.Feb.06 | 14:42
In issuing a sudden invitation to Moscow, Vladimir Putin has become personally involved in the Middle East in the hope that his audacious initiative will rebuild Russia's prestige on the world stage. Israel and his Quartet partners - The United States, the European Union and the UN, which do not dispose of a similar margin for maneuvre because of their refusal to have any contact with a movement, categorized as "terrorist" - were caught off guard. Putin underscored that Russia had not blindly classified Hamas as a terrorist movement and that his country was legitimately entitled to initiate talks with Hamas, which had come "to power in autonomous Palestine through democratic and free elections". Taken by surprise, the United States has urged that Russia adhere, in its public or private dialogue with the radical Islamic movement, to the position adopted by the Quartet in London on 30 January: Hamas must renounce armed struggle and accept coexistence with Israel. The Russian envoy to the Middle East, Alexander Kalugin, rushed to reassure the West on this point: We shall insiste on a change in policy from Hamas. Everyone tells Hamas that it must adopt a moderate stance because it will not go far with its radical attitude...We are seeking that Hamas respect past agreements and and that it desist from committing acts of terrorism. And of course, to nudge them towards recognition of the State of Israel, underscored the Russian diplomat, whose statements were reported Friday by the press agency, Interfax.
A SECOND BREATH.
The Russian initiative was warmly welcomed by Hamas leaders in Palestine and in exile. The movement had already implicity accepted the Oslo Accords by participating in the January 5th elections and had extended sine die a truce which it has observed for a year. Putin has kicked over the anthill while careful to reaffirm its respect for the principles established by the Quartet. This has caused turmoil in the diplomatic community, where observers believe that the Russian President is not far from taking over the peace process. In a situation in which all the other mediators are paralyzed, we have, in Russian, seized the occasion to impart a second breath into the peace process, observes analyst Sergei Markov, a Kremlin insider. A spokesman for France's Quai d'Orsay, Denis Simonneau, said that it shares with Russia the goal of bring Hamas towards positions which will allow the two states to live in peace and security and believes that Russia's initiative can contribute to move things forward if it does not stray beyond the framework put in place by the Quartet. However, according to one Western diplomat in Moscow, Putin's initiative, considered in Israel as "a stab in the back" will likely push the limits of the Quartet's position. Russia has gone well beyond the Quartet in inviting Hamas to Moscow without precondition of principles to be observed. But, the diplomat adds, Putin can always reverse course if Hamas, once in power, does not revise its hostility towards Israel. Finally, it is not Russia but the European Union and the United States which hold the purse strings and therefore they may exercise greater pressure. But the rabbit which Putin has pulled out of the hat with raise the prestige of Russia on the international stage, which is the intent of the Russian President, adds the diplomat.