A Russian warship docked at the port of Haifa on May 1, making it the first Russian warship ever to visit Israel. In an email interview, Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University who focuses on Russian foreign policy, explained the recent evolution of the Russia-Israel relationship.
WPR: What is the immediate context of Russia's decision to send a warship to Israel for the first time?
Mark Katz: The visit of the first Russian warship to Israel is one more sign of how Russian-Israeli relations have steadily improved ever since Vladimir Putin first came to power in Moscow. While there has been tension between Russia and Israel over Moscow’s close ties to anti-Israeli governments in Tehran and Damascus, Russia and Israel both perceive Sunni radicals as a common threat. This common perception has only intensified since the outbreak of the “Arab Spring,” which both Russia and Israel see as more likely to strengthen Sunni radical forces than moderate democratic ones. In addition, Russian-Israeli cooperation has been steadily growing not just in the economic and cultural realms, but also in the military sphere.