Well, within days of the US turning up the heat on Russia because of Russia's sales of missiles to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran, Mr. Putin called on his favorite court Jew, Chabad Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, to provide cover – just as he had last month, when word of the sales first leaked.
From Mr. Putin's public relations … ehrrr … 'news' agency:
2005-03-03 19:55 * RUSSIA * PRESIDENT * CHIEF RABBI * CONFERENCE *
ANTI-EXTREMISM KREMLIN'S TOP PRIORITY
MOSCOW, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian leadership has efforts against extremism, in its many manifestations, in the foreground, reassured President Vladimir Putin, while in conference with Berl Lazar, Russia's Chief Rabbi.
"Combat against anti-Semitism and whatever other extremist and xenophobic trends-chauvinism and anti-Russian prejudice included-will always remain in the focus of attention of officials, be it the Cabinet or the President," he pointed out.
Rabbi Lazar, on his part, does not think Jews have very bad problems in Russia, though there are certain alarming trends.
"We appeal to you, Mr. President, to launch practical action against outbreaks of anti-Semitism and interethnic hatred. These trends are gaining momentum worldwide, Russia being no exception. We are doing what we can-but it's impossible without assistance on the part of the state. If we pool efforts, we shall be able together to promote Russian stability and buttress interreligious and interdenominational accord in this country," he said.
"Russia has been a multi-religious land from the start, and its statehood emerged and developed in that situation. We all know it full well. Peace between ethnic entities and between religions is no mere national tradition. In fact, Russia is a symbiosis of ethnic entities and religions, and that is what makes it strong," replied President Putin.
Rabbi Lazar highlighted Jews' situation improving in Russia. "They [the Jews] are living a better life now, many even come back from Israel. That is an impressive proof that we are doing fine here," he remarked.
The President referred to a conference he had yesterday with the governor of the Jewish autonomous area, in the Russian Far East. 51 left the area last year, as against 104 who came back, the governor told him. "This fact needs no comments-it deserves attention as it is, and we are to pay it due attention," said Mr. Putin.
This is the same Mr. Putin who told President Bush last week that interference with press freedoms is normal – after all, said Mr. Putin to Mr. Bush, didn't you fire all those people at CBS?