Vladimir Putin is good for Israel, a top political analyst said Sunday evening, as Russians elected the prime minister to his third non-consecutive presidential term at the Kremlin.
"It has always been important for him to maintain good ties with Israel and Russia's Jewish community," Stanislav Belkovsky, founder and director of Russia's National Strategy Institute, told Haaretz.
Belkovsky explained that a healthy relationship between Russia and Israel would also be important for any other Russian president. "Even if another leader were to replace Putin, he would be loyal to Israel because these days Muslim immigration is a bigger problem for Russia than anti-Semitism, and that is the dynamic that will develop; Islamophobia will intensify, anti-Semitism will erode."
The political analyst also explained Russian arms sales to Syria, a point of tension between Israeli and Russian officials, were not directed against Israel. "Simply, the quality of Russian weapons has deteriorated to a point where that is the level of customer that remains. It is a matter of choosing the only possible customer, and without customers for Russia's military products, he [Putin] will be forced to retrench hundreds of thousands of people working in the industry, which would stir commotion."
When asked about Putin's relationship with the West, Belkovsky explained that "the West was always willing to come to terms with Putin, because his stable reign served the interests of Western corporations, and a power struggle with citizens of the state will destroy their status."
Complaining of widespread fraud in Sunday's election in which Putin got more than 63 percent of the nationwide vote, Putin's opponents said they did not recognize the results and would rally near the Kremlin Monday evening.
But the former KGB spy, who after four years as prime minister will be returning to the post he held from 2000 until 2008, said with tears rolling down his cheeks that he had won a "clean" victory.
"I promised you we would win. We have won. Glory to Russia," Putin, dressed in an anorak and flanked by outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters on Sunday night under the Kremlin's red walls.
Belkovsky explained why Putin appointed Medvedev as prime minster. "Medvedev proved his full loyalty, unlike [former president Boris] Yeltzen, who mixed cards freely. But how long Medvedev's cabinet will hold is unclear, because its professional potential is not high, and the scope of problems demands of the staff a high level of proficiency," Belkovsky said.
Following the official announcement of his win, election monitors said voting was skewed in Putin's favor. "There was no real competition and abuse of government resources ensured that the ultimate winner of the election was never in doubt," Tonino Picula, one of the vote monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, said in a statement.
Monitors also called for alleged electoral violations in Sunday's election to be thoroughly investigated.
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