While President Bush was defending Putin at last night’s news conference he probably did not know that Putin was harshly critical of the United States in meetings with Israeli President Katsav and Prime Minister Sharon.

Putin argued that the American effort to impose democracy in the Arab world is undermining the stability of the Middle East. He charged that “The Americans with their policies, the Americans are encouraging the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.” He went on to claim that Americans are holding secret talks with their most secret enemies — the heads of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

After Israel, Putin continued to show his true colors by paying his respects at the grave of Yassir Arafat (I wonder if he takes visitors to Russia to the grave of Stalin?) and he announced his intentions to supply the Palestinians with military equipment — a deal seems to have been cut for 50 armed personnel carriers and 2 helicopters. Add this to his decision to sell missiles to Syria and a pretty clear picture of his intentions emerges.

Gary Kasparov, the former World Chess champion, warned Israelis that they cannot count on Putin for anything. We agree and would add that the United States should also be wary. In the United States there has been some praise for Putin’s comment that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. That should not be interpreted to mean that Russia will stop helping Iran develop nuclear capabilities.