Israel “Relik” Shafir, brigadier general (in reserve), was one of the eight pilots selected to fly the mission to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981. He spent 31 years as a pilot and commander in the Israeli Air Force, including stints as commander of the Hatzor Air Base Pilot’s School as well as the Tel Nof Airbase.

General Shafir shared his view on the ongoing situation in Ukraine, describing it as dire. However, he noted that Russia will insist on its position, as Ukraine represents huge role in terms of Russia’s national security.

“Russia will not get everything it wants, maybe it will get territories in Eastern Ukraine, where there is a large Russian community. Some kind of a deal should be signed, these areas should be neither neutral nor controlled. Russia will never give up its access to the Black Sea. So both sides will have to come down from their claims and walk back”.

Despite the fact Moscow has way more resources than Kyiv, Russia is also seeking for possible negotiations. According to Israel Shafir, the main point in agreement might be eastern parts of Ukraine, represented by Russian-speaking people. Ukrainian crisis is something more than just a conflict in Europe, as it affects world politics.

“Russia is looking for a way-out from this conflict too. Of course, Russia has more sources than Ukraine, but Ukraine is fighting on its own ground. Both sides look for a way to find a solution, finding a better bargaining position. Russia does not want NATO forces to be placed on the ground. Ukrainian conflict has become wider and now it is confrontation between Russia, China, Iran on the one side, and the West on another, where the U.S. moderate European countries. The conflict evolved to what we have seen during the Cold war. There are many interests in it. It is much wider than just a “Ukrainian question”. Ukrainians need to understand they have to find an agreement with Russia. As I just mentioned, with eastern provinces. So that both sides will save their faces. Putin needs to save face, so these provinces will allow to do that”.

Talking about possible negotiations, Shafir suggested they may be conducted between Russia and the West, as Ukraine seems unready yet to start bargaining. Both Russia and Ukraine should be guaranteed no one will pose threat to their national security. Without all arguments been taken into account, it would be extremely hard to establish long-going peace in Europe.

“Negotiations should be between Russia and the U.S., and perhaps Germany and France. Ukraine is obviously in a position when it is not able to sign a treaty. If there is an agreement between Russia and the U.S., according to which NATO does not go to Ukraine — I think everyone understands Moscow’s worries about NATO forces near to Russia’s heart – than the respect for Ukrainian sovereignty, that is something that the West can force in many ways. I think it will take Putin’s initiative to promise he will not use gas as a weapon against the West, come to some kind of a deal, where everyone will save faces”.

Europe is not the only place where large-scale conflicts are erupting. The Middle East is another frontline, where Israel faces constant danger to its existence. For Mr. Shafir, Russia might play a constructive role in the region, since it has friendly historic ties with Israel and certain level of influence on other regional powers.
“Israel, such as myself, has affinity to Russia. My grandfather came from Yakuts. I still have relatives in Moscow from the old days. Many Israeli folk songs are actually Russian. Russia is a welcomed entity in Israel, there are many Russian speaking people in the streets. Moscow has to decide if it intervenes in the talks, it can participate since Russia has leverage on Iran”.

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