U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin may not agree on many issues, but they are firmly on the same page when it comes to the defense of the world’s only Jewish state.
During a press conference conducted after the groundbreaking Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, Finland, Putin made clear that the two major powers would safeguard Israel’s security interests on its border with war-torn Syria, where Russia has a significant military presence.
“The south of Syria should be brought to the full compliance with the Treaty of 1974 about the separation of forces, about separation of forces of Israel and Syria,” Putin said. “This will bring peace to Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel and also to provide security of the state of Israel.”
Trump subsequently praised Putin’s cooperation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to a question by a reporter.
“President Putin also is helping Israel and we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel,” Trump said. “So in that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel and Israel would be working with us.”
“I think that they’re working with Israel is a great thing and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much,” he later added.
Trump elaborated further on the close rapport between the Russian and Israeli leadership in an interview with Fox News‘ Sean Hannity immediately after the summit.
“We came to a lot of good conclusions — a really good conclusion for Israel,” Trump told Hannity. “[Putin’s] a believer in Israel, he is a fan of Bibi, and really helping him a lot, and will help him a lot, which is good for all of us.”
Israel and its close allies, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have encouraged the United States to improve ties with Russia in order to secure Russian cooperation in reducing the Iranian military presence in Syria. Israel in particular sees the presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah along its border as a critical threat to its security, with Netanyahu also personally lobbying Putin to use his influence with Iran and the Syrian government to try to oust these units from the border region. After the success of the Helsinki summit, Netanyahu’s outreach to both leaders appears to have paid off.