Russia is one of the most protective countries of Israel and its security. This was strongly confirmed during the on going Syrian war. While Russia does not agree with some Israeli actions sometimes, the lack of approval does not develop into anger, and Russia continues to search for ways and means to ensure Israel’s security.
Russia has swallowed a number of insults and humiliations from Turkey, the US, France, and Israel for confronting the armed organisations in Syria.
It preferred the insults to the clashes, which could potentially result in an undesired outcome. This policy encouraged others to be greedy and inflict further insults on Russia, the most recent of which was shooting down the Russian plane and the killing of the soldiers and experts on board.
When Turkey shot down a Russian plane, Russia voiced its anger, but ultimately accepted Ankara’s apology as part of a deal that allowed Turkey to enter Syria with its tanks and equipment. Turkey entered Syrian territory by means of an unannounced agreement with Russia.
America entered Syria by force, but Russia has entered into undeclared talks with the United States regarding non-collision and providing each other with information on air traffic in Syrian airspace. As for the Israelis, they were completely free to hit targets within Syria without Russia’s objections, and even with Russian approval to hit Iranian targets. The Russians recently persuaded the Iranians to go further into Syria based on Israel’s desire in order to preserve its security.
The question that is raised regarding Russia’s presence in Syria is: Why did Russia come with its anti-aircraft missiles to Syria if the Syrian airspace is open to all? Russia did not fire any anti-aircraft missiles from Syrian territory, and did not provide missile batteries to the Syrian army to defend the sanctity of the country.
Due to Russia’s keenness to preserve Israel’s security, it is clear that Russia is fighting terrorism selectively according to its interests and not according to principles. Russia is fighting organisations it classifies as terrorist organisations in Syria, but it does not fight Israel, which is considered a terrorist state based on the definition of terrorism. Israel is a state that occupies the homeland of others and displaced its people, yet Russia preserves its security. The issue of combatting terrorism is neither based on humanitarian principles nor does it aim to preserve world security and peace, but instead is subject to personal interests. Israel threatens world peace and security and commits acts of terrorism against the Palestinian people on a daily basis, but Russia does not mention this terrorism.
Now that Israel has greatly insulted Russia after shooting down the Russian plane over Latakia. What will Russia do?
Russia can hand over antiaircraft missile batteries to the Syrian army for it to collide with Israeli and US planes. It could cancel its agreement with Iran to stay away from the Quneitra province and allow the Iranians to advance southwest under the umbrella of Syrian missile protection. Russia could also fire its missiles at Israeli planes if the missiles are not delivered to the Syrian army, and Russia could declare Lebanese airspace as being under the protection of Russian missiles to prevent the Israelis from using this airspace against Syria.
Of course, Russia can take political and diplomatic measures against Israel, such as withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv and dismissing the Israeli ambassador from Moscow. It can also stop Russian tourism to Israel and stop dealing with Israel. However, all the diplomatic and commercial measures against Israel would be useless and will not lift the humiliation from Russia’s shoulders.
My prediction is that Russia will not take measures that would negatively affect Israel’s dominance over the region, especially in Syria, or that would affect the security of Israel, which affects the security of all the countries in the region. Russia also will not violate its agreement with Israel over the departure of Iranian forces from the Golan Heights because that would threaten Israel’s security.
I would like to point out that it is clear that Putin’s relations with Netanyahu are much stronger than his relations with Bashar Al-Assad. For Russia, Syria is just a foothold, but Israel is a friendly country.
At the end of the day, Syria does not have effective tools for confrontation and it inevitably relies on Russia and obeys the Russian policy. Israel is quite different because it has the tools to influence Russia through two things:
The first is its relations with the West, which can help it in diplomatic, commercial and economic measures against Russia.
The second is that Israel has the ability to shoot down Russian planes, whether over the Mediterranean or over Syrian territory.
I would like to point out that Russia fears a military confrontation using conventional weapons with Western countries and Israel because they fear the insult of Russian weapons. This is because the traditional Russian weapons, including warplanes, helicopters, armoured vehicles, reconnaissance, tanks, cannons and warships are not as advanced and sophisticated the West’s weapons.
Russia has nuclear capabilities, but they have not reached the level of Western development. Since Israel possesses sophisticated conventional American weapons, it can destroy Russian weapons even within limited dimensions. That is why Russia avoids clashes with America, Israel and Turkey over Syrian airspace.
It is likely that Israel will take a step that will ease much of the humiliation it has inflicted on Russia, such as Netanyahu’s visit to Russia as a means of a public apology.
After all, Russia is a superpower despite its reluctance to defend Syrian airspace.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the News Khaleej on 25 September 2018.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.