Russian FM Lavrov announced upcoming financial support for the Palestinians during Abbas’ visit to Moscow. As his presidential term expires on January 9, this seems to be Abbas’ last official visit—significantly, to Chechnya.

Russian support for the Palestinians will come largely in the military sphere. In Lavrov’s diplomatic-speak, Russia supports Abbas’ “security measures.” The only Fatah security measures we see in Israel are related to terrorist attacks: scores of Fatah policemen are vacationing in Israeli jails for terror activity. Not a single Palestinian terrorist was intercepted by Fatah policemen. The few terrorists comfortably jailed in Palestine were arrested by IDF and released to Fatah.

The Russian pledge to Palestine has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns. Russians never delivered food or other humanitarian supplies to Palestinian refugee camps, but looked for “security cooperation” with the Palestinians. In plain English, Russians seek a military foothold on Israel’s borders. To that end, they pledged ten MIG-29 jets to Lebanon’s Hezbollah government free, and they are building a mammoth navy base in the Syrian port of Tartus. The navy base will host S-300 and later S-400 anti-aircraft defense, which would protect most of Syria against Israeli reprisals. Under the Russian ABM umbrella, Syria can develop its nuclear weapons without fearing Israeli preemption.

Russia’s Middle East policy also includes TOR-1M and S-300 deliveries to Iran and a joint nuclear program with Egypt.

Russian expansion comes despite that country’s economic troubles. The Russian economy relies on oil, gas, and other natural resources almost as much as Saudi Arabia. Oil and gas revenues account for about 60 percent of the Russian budget (both directly and through taxes on businesses which thrive on high oil prices). During the years of windfall oil profits, the Russian government built currency reserves, but they dwindled quickly as oil prices fell.

Instead of minding its own business and building a modern economy, the Putin-Medvedev government grew increasingly hostile. Domestically, the regime amended the high treason law: the new formulation of the law easily includes all dissidents. The tax administration hunts down crisis-stricken businesses: the reduced tax revenues are blamed on evasion rather than on the economic downturn. In the “near abroad,” Russia continues military incursions into Georgia and has introduced a gas blockade of Ukraine. The Russian monopoly Gazprom refused to transport Asian gas to Ukraine, and slapped it with gas prices substantially higher than those offered to West European customers.

Russia cannot bring rich or advanced countries on its side. They are either not interested in Russian overtures or prefer relations with the West, if only for economic reasons. Russians have nothing to offer Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, but courts the world’s outlaws, such as Iran or Venezuela.

The Old Europe also falls victim to Russian bullying: France and Germany, the EU cheerleaders, depend on Russia for gas supplies, as do most other European countries. The staunchly anti-American EU embraces Russia, if not for any other reason than to slap the United States. In its latest meeting at FM level, NATO discussed Georgia: not how to defend it from Russia, but how to get over it and re-establish ties with Russia.

US-Russian nuclear cooperation, arms reduction, and anti-missile treaties have been practically abandoned. Russia threatened to stop dismantling its nuclear warheads and selling the uranium to America, though the deal has gone on smoothly for fifteen years. Putin resumed militarily useless but highly provocative flights of Russian nuclear-armed strategic bombers around Europe.

Russia’s increasingly strong relations with Hezbollah, Hamas, and the PLO are best viewed in the context of its worldwide strategy. Lacking funds to buy clients with aid, and having too little economic clout to obtain friends with trade advantages, Russia has resorted to the old Soviet tactic of stirring trouble. That policy amounts to racketeering: if the Russian role is not acknowledged, regional troubles ensue. Propping up miscreants like Iran or the PLO is much cheaper than staging conflicts and immensely cheaper than any civilized way of spreading one’s influence.

Unless Russia breaks down again into post-democratic anarchy, it is out to create major troubles for the world.