Feb 2, 2022 - World

Scoop: Israel doesn't see violent Russia-Ukraine confrontation anytime soon

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) and Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speak in Moscow in September 2021. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via Getty Images
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (right) and Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speak in Moscow in September 2021. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via Getty Images

Israel doesn’t think there will be a violent confrontation between Russia and Ukraine anytime soon, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tells me.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has been warning publicly in recent weeks that the Russian military buildup on the border with Ukraine could lead to an invasion at any moment.

  • Israel is in a unique situation of having close relations with both Russia and Ukraine. It proposed a Russia-Ukraine summit in Jerusalem last October.

Behind the scenes: Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Lapid on Monday and asked that Israel convey to Russia a message of the need for de-escalation, Israeli officials tell me.

  • This was the second time in recent weeks Blinken asked Israel to pass on such a message.
  • Israeli officials say they have been talking to the Russians about the need to de-escalate and Lapid is planning to speak to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov about it in the coming days.

What they're saying: “At the moment, the [Israeli] assessment is that we don’t see a violent confrontation soon. I also don’t think a world war is about to start there," Lapid tells me.

  • He stresses that Israel is in a complicated situation because the second largest Jewish community is in Russia and the fifth largest Jewish community is in Ukraine.
  • “We have a duty to act with caution about the Russia-Ukraine crisis that no other country has," he says.

The big picture: Lapid says Israel is concerned that the Russia-Ukraine crisis will drive the attention away from the Vienna nuclear talks with Iran.

  • "We would have liked the U.S. to give a much closer attention to this issue in order to prevent dangerous things from happening," he adds.
  • Worth noting: The U.S. said this week it sees a path to a deal in the Vienna nuclear talks, but Iran must make “tough political decisions now."

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