"Today, [we] must recognize that Hamas came to power via legitimate, democratic elections in the Palestinian National Authority, which is why we must respect the choice of the Palestinian people," Putin said at a news conference in Madrid, where he is on official business.This can't be a surprise to US officials, despite public claims to the contrary. Russians see the US as trying to weaken Russia, using "democracy" as a tool.
Russians are still angry over what they see as Western support for Chechen Islamist extremists--whom Russians believe are tied to Al Qaeda--support justified by calls for "self-determination." Likewise, Russians are angry about Western support for Islamic movements in the former Yugoslavia, and in the former Soviet Republics. No doubt, feeling that turnabout is fair play, the Russians have decided that two can play the "democracy" game. Hamas's victory gives Russia the opportunity to hassle President Bush. Putin can cause problems for the US, in the same way that Russians believe the US has been causing problems for Russia. And with Russian support for Syria, Venezuela, and now Hamas, Putin will be in a stronger position to get the West to back off any further moves to destablize Russia.
It has long been said that Russians play chess while Americans play poker. But it seems that the Hamas victory is an Ace in Putin's poker hand, which he intends to play with a poker face against President Bush.
One might also remember that the USSR was instrumental in the establishment of the PLO in the first place--as well as in the establishment of the State of Israel, funnelling arms through Czechoslovakia to the Jewish State in 1948. By embracing Hamas, Putin is re-inforcing Russia's role as a "player" in the Middle East, a Great Power whose national interests can no longer be ignored.
This is a natural consequence of an American two-track policy which encourages confrontation with Russia, rather than full partnership in the war on terror. Bush's mistakes have now given Putin leverage to veto any American initiatives in the Middle East. Which means that unless Bush makes nice to Putin, Ehud Olmert's Israeli government may need to shift its focus to the Kremlin--and Russia may find that its historical quest for a "warm water port" ends when the Russian Navy is based in Haifa...