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