Russia and Israel have been getting along surprisingly well considering that they are on opposite sides of the Syrian civil war.
Russia remains a staunch ally of the Syrian regime, and by extension its allies in Iran and Hezbollah. Israel, meanwhile, has been busily bombing Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, with Moscow’s tacit approval.
But Russia’s final response to last week’s accidental downing of a Russian spy plane during the course of an Israeli air raid on Syria suggests that the Kremlin hasn’t been too happy about the Jewish state interfering in its war zone.
Contrary to claims by Israeli officials, Moscow did blame Israel for Syrian anti-aircraft batteries inadvertently shooting down a Russian spy plane that was flying near to where the Israeli aircraft had launched their missiles.
Ostensibly to prevent such a mishap from reoccurring, Russia has agreed to sell it’s most advanced anti-aircraft system, the S-300, to the Syrian regime.
Russia tried to sell the S-300 to Syria years ago, but backed down following a fierce outcry from Israel and other Western powers. The loss of 15 Russian servicemen has finally given Moscow the excuse it needs to conclude the deal.
And that’s bad news for Israel.
The Israel Air Force is innovative, and will likely find ways to continue striking Iranian targets in Syria despite the presence of the S-300, which Syria is expected to take possession of in the coming months.
More worrying is that Russia will have incentive to help the Syrians use the S-300 to its fullest potential in targeting and bringing down Israeli aircraft. After all, Moscow wouldn’t want the world to think that it’s most advanced anti-aircraft system is incapable of stopping Israel’s American-made planes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed on Tuesday for New York City, where he will address the United Nations General Assembly and hold an urgent one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.
Without question, the rising tension with Russia, as well as the unacceptable threat of Iranian forces in Syria, will be a major focus of those talks.
How Trump will respond is anyone’s guess, but US National Security Adviser John Bolton has already called Russia’s promise to give Syria the S-300 a “major mistake.”
PHOTO: Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin have typically gotten along very well. But the current crisis threatens to derail Israeli-Russian cooperation in Syria. (Israeli Embassy in Russia)