Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama agree on very little. But on the subject of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, they're on the same page. In a speech delivered Sunday at the Valdai Club, an annual gathering of Russian experts, Putin blamed the settlement construction for increased tension in the Middle East and beyond.
"The humiliation of the Palestinian people and any other people is a source of danger and instability and must be removed with all means and ways acceptable to all parties," Putin said.
Considering the source, this position is more than a little rich. Throughout Putin's lengthy tenure as the country's de facto leader, Moscow has shown little reluctance in claiming territory it views as sovereign, most recently by annexing the former Ukrainian-held territory of Crimea in March. That incident drew international condemnation and led to economic sanctions, but Israel, curiously, said little. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained its neutrality on the Russia/Ukraine dispute, a position that did not go unnoticed in Washington.
"We were surprised Israel did not join the vast majority of countries that vowed to support Ukraine's territorial integrity in the United Nations," Jen Psaki, the U.S. State Department spokesperson, said at the time.