Olmert and PutinIt seems that we writers can’t get enough about writing on Israeli political tête-à-têtes. And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s “quickie” visit to see Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin last Thursday is just one of those episodes in Israel’s continuing problem with Iran’s ongoing nuclear program – and Russia’s latest involvement with the Iranian Republic. That this short, three hour visit, followed on the heels of Putin’s own state visit to see Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, must have sent alarm bells ringing in Jerusalem. Olmert, who barely had time for a quick dinner meeting with the Russian leader before flying back to Israel, must have expressed his country’s concern for Putin’s remarks that Iran (in Putin’s opinion) does not appear to have plans to build a nuclear weapon.

That “assurance” was not enough to satisfy Olmert who only last year, on October 18 2006 (see photo), spent a longer period in Moscow to warn Russia that Israel will not stand idly by and allow Iran to become a nuclear military power. Putin even made his own comments then that his country would not allow this to happen.

So, why Putin’s seemingly ambivalence to what appears to be a very serous situation regarding the Islamic Republic? Was it serious enough for Olmert to ‘commute’ to Moscow in the time that he would do to drive to Haifa in heavy traffic; and in addition, to make this quick trip known to the press? Indeed it was, as Russia seems to be charting its own foreign policy course, which is definitely one that favors its own self interest, and is bringing Russia into a confrontation position with the United States that hasn’t been around since the end of the Cold War. There are many reasons for the Kremlin’s friendliness with Teheran. For one thing, Russia’s foreign trade with Iran is considerably larger than its trade with Israel (except for possibly diamonds that is).

Besides agreeing to supply the Iranians with a lot of updated military hardware, including several types of missile systems, Russia has also agreed to help Iran with its nuclear reactors, which are supposed to be for the manufacture of electricity and other “peaceful purposes”. What isn’t being divulged is to what extent Putin is actually committing his country to helping Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Ali Kahmanei, the chief reigning Mullah, to complete Iran’s nuclear facilities and have them “on-line” as soon as possible.

Olmert warned the Kremlin last year that Israel would do what it has to do to prevent Iran from reaching the “point of no return” regarding Iranian reactors producing weapons grade enriched uranium and plutonium. That “point” is apparently nearer than most of us would like to believe, and this has prompted Olmert to pop in to see Putin at what apparently was a “spur of the moment” arranged visit (something like out of an “Ice Station Zebra” or “Fail Safe” movie scenario, perhaps?).

More on this visit will undoubtedly be divulged, as what exactly Olmert did discuss with Mr. Putin is still classified information – and rightfully so. Too much detail of these kind of events often get leaked out and the consequences are not helpful to any of us, especially here in Israel.

Most of us living in this country, myself in particular, would like to go bed at night without wondering what might be store for us – and perhaps sooner than we think!