Monday, May 16, 2022

  • Monday, May 16, 2022
  • Elder of Ziyon


I've been wondering whether the conventional wisdom has been wrong since Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov claimed that Hitler had Jewish blood after Israel expressed its displeasure.

The standard analysis was like this one from Newsweek:

While Israel and Russia would likely continue their balancing act of relations based on a range of mutual interests in the Middle East, any tensions between the two raise an uncomfortable truth for the former. Israel effectively needs Russia's approval to conduct operations freely against Iran and its allies in Syria.  
This is true, but Russia also has great interest in not upsetting Israel.

The Media Line reports:

The main party deterring Israel from being more aggressive in Syria used to be Russia. But this might be changing.

Russian military bases have spread across Syria since 2015 when President Vladimir Putin intervened to save the Assad regime from losing the country’s civil war. While Russian air defense systems are in use in some parts of the country, Israel continues to enjoy a large degree of freedom of action in Syrian skies.

Russia is no match for Israel’s air superiority,” says Zvi Magen, head of the Russia research program at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and a former Israeli intelligence officer.

Russia is deterred by Israel in Syria, and its military forces are not a factor for the IAF [Israel Air Force]. If anything, there is a match in interests when it comes to Iran, against whom Russia is fighting for control in Syria,” he adds,

Describing Russia’s interests in Syria, he says, “First of all, it’s about access to the Middle East in general. Russia aspires to be a significant force in the region. Second, the Russian naval facility in Tartus is Russia’s entry to the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t see it risking those interests just to limit Israel’s freedom of action.

While the alleged Israeli attack [on Damascus on Wednesday] is a message to the Syrian government, it could also be directed toward Russia, following the Kremlin’s recent change of tone toward Israel, he says.

“Russia became very critical of Israel lately, and it’s not completely clear why. It most likely has to do with the war in Ukraine. But this attack could be a message, making it clear that Israel will not change its policy in Syria,” Magen explains.
As with the Arab world, Russian bluster needs to be analyzed from a perspective of an honor.shame mentality.

Russia is humiliated in Ukraine, and it tries to make up for that humiliation with overly aggressive speech and lies about its accomplishments. But even while that is happening, the number of countries willing to speak to it is diminishing.

Russia lost a lot of prestige for its military capability. Imagine if Russia would say it is changing its policy and enforcing a no-fly zone for Israel over Syria.

If Israel defeats Russia's anti-missile and anti-aircraft defenses in Syria, it would be an additional, significant psychological blow. And it is one that Moscow cannot afford to risk.

According to this analysis, that is indeed what would happen. 

Which could explain Putin's (semi-official) apology to Israel.  

Israel is making it clear that it will operate against Iranian interests in Syria no matter what, and Russia cannot afford to have Israel call its implied bluff that permission is required.

It is a high stakes game, but Israel has more cards than it is given credit for.






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