, Is Russia Helping Syria Intercept Israeli Strikes?, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Is Russia Helping Syria Intercept Israeli Strikes?

, Is Russia Helping Syria Intercept Israeli Strikes?, The Nzuchi News Forbes

The deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, made some eyebrow-raising remarks in July. 

On July 19, four Israeli F-16 fighter jets fired eight guided missiles at targets in Syria’s Aleppo province. According to Kulit, Russian-built Pantsir and Buk-M2 air defense missiles intercepted seven of them.

On July 22, two F-16s fired four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at targets in Syria’s Homs province. In that case, Kulit claimed that the Syrian air defenses were 100 percent successful. “All four missiles were destroyed by the Syrian duty air defense facilities, with the use of Buk-2ME systems of Russian manufacture,” he said

Syria invariably claims after such Israeli attacks that its air defenses successfully shoot down enemy missiles. Russia seldom, if ever, supports such claims. In early June, for example, Syria said its air defenses intercepted Israeli missiles over Damascus. Unlike those two incidences in July, Russia said nothing. In April 2018, on the other hand, after the U.S., Britain, and France launched cruise missiles at Syria in retaliation over a chemical weapons attack, Russia dubiously claimed that Syrian air defenses had shot down 71 out of 103 of those missiles. Back then, Moscow also said its advisors had spent the previous 18 months helping Syria rebuild its air defenses.

Kulit’s statements seemingly suggest a potential change in Russia’s policy on Israeli strikes, or at the very least an expression of its growing disapproval of them.

The London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper cited a “well-informed Russian source” who claims that this is “directly related to talks” between Russia and the United States. The U.S., according to the source, has confided to Russia that it “does not welcome the continuous Israeli raids” on Syria. 

MORE FOR YOU

(Israel, according to local media, is not aware of any U.S.-Russia discussions on the subject.)

The source also claimed that Russia “enhanced” Syrian air defenses and provided new equipment to Damascus, although it didn’t give any specific details or evidence. (It’s worth remembering that last year, Russia claimed it had delivered a batch of modernized MiG-29s to Syria, although that was most likely a ruse to cover-up its delivery of unmarked MiG-29s to eastern Libya, which incidentally passed through its airbase in western Syria.) 

“The recent developments reflect a shift in how Moscow addresses the Israeli attacks and indicate that Moscow has ‘run out of patience’ because Tel Aviv continues to ignore Russian calls to set clear rules,” the Al-Awsat report said. 

, Is Russia Helping Syria Intercept Israeli Strikes?, The Nzuchi News Forbes

After Russia militarily intervened in the Syrian conflict back in 2015, Israel promptly established a deconfliction mechanism with it. The Israeli Air Force has carried out hundreds of strikes against Iran-related targets in Syria since 2013 and has repeatedly reaffirmed its resolve to forcibly prevent Tehran or its militias from establishing a foothold there. 

Israel does not seek Russia’s permission before carrying out its strikes and often gives it little to no forewarning about when and where it attacks. In September 2018, an antiquated Syrian S-200 anti-aircraft missile launched in response to an Israeli strike on targets in the western coastal province of Latakia hit a Russian Il-20 plane, killing all 15 people aboard. Russia blamed Israel for the incident, claiming it had only warned it a mere minute before launching the attack. Moscow also slammed Israel a few months later for “provocative” strikes. 

But even during that notably tense period, Russia showed no real indication that it would move to deter Israeli airstrikes in the country nor supply the Syrian military with the kind of advanced systems Damascus would need to independently combat Israeli air and missile strikes. 

In response to the September 2018 incident, Russia promptly shipped high-altitude S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. The S-300 is more advanced and lethal than any other air defense system in the Syrian arsenal. However, these S-300s are operated exclusively by Russian military personnel, even though they are ‘Syrian’, who don’t allow Damascus to fire them.

And even if Russia recently upgraded Syrian Pantsir and Buk missiles, it likely did so after concluding that Syria would, or could, only use them to target incoming Israeli missiles rather than jets. After all, Israeli warplanes usually launch their standoff weapons, most likely Popeye cruise missiles, while remaining inside Lebanon’s airspace, where there is much less chance of them being shot down.

If Moscow supplied Damascus with more advanced air defenses, the reputation of those systems, which Russia wants to export to more countries, could be fatally undermined if they are destroyed in another round of clashes between Israel and Syria. Between 2018 and 2020 alone, Israel destroyed one-third of Syria’s air defenses

Last year, Turkish drones destroyed Russian-built Pantsir-S1s in Libya and Israeli-built loitering munitions operated by Azerbaijan destroyed Armenian S-300s during the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Moscow undoubtedly does not want to see its more modern missile systems destroyed on the Syrian battlefield. 

It’s for similar reasons, speculated one Israeli journalist, that Moscow is hesitant to allow Syria to use its S-300s because it fears “that if they are indeed activated and miss their target – it would demonstrate the technological and operational superiority of Israel and the West, which would hurt the pride of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country’s defense industries.” 


Kulit’s recent statements doesn’t necessarily mean that Russia is actively working to help Syria prevent Israeli missile strikes. They could well be Moscow’s way of signaling, now that there are new governments in both Israel and the United States, that it wants to negotiate new and clearer parameters for deconfliction with the Israeli military in Syria.

More Stories
‘Borderlands 3’ Has Been Forced To Remove Crossplay Support For PlayStation