Recently, Western media have been writing about Russia’s return to the Middle East and its increasing role in the region. Indeed, Russia has been involved in the Syrian war for last several years. There is also tactical rapprochement with Turkey and Iran.
Certain analytics and experts believe that the Russian military presence in Syria is a guarantee of Assad’s regime survival. In Moscow you can hear an expression: “Russians don’t desert their own”. Let’s look, does Russia actually protect Assad’s regime and is he such a valuable ally of Russia?
Although Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria on 11 December 2017, in fact they are still in Syria and fighting against opposition. Although Syria and its President Bashar Assad, in words, are Russia’s allies, in fact, Moscow doesn’t protect its ally from US, UK, France and Israel’s airstrikes.
Moscow prefers to close eyes to bombing of its ally and destroying Russian-supplied arms, the Syrian military is armed with. Moreover, Israel’s major airstrike on May 10 showed that Moscow doesn’t mind using these airstrikes, to strengthen its positions in Syria.
There are several reasons; first of all Russia realizes the technological backwardness of its air defense systems against Western and Israeli armed forces. Any counteraction of Russia on one hand can lead to a massive conflict; on the other hand will show Russia’s weakness against Western countries and Israel.
The cooperation between Israel and Russia in Syria will probably grow, as they have the same aim right now – to get rid of IranAli Hajizade
Both scenarios are unacceptable to Moscow. We should remember that the Syrian issue is the issue of Russian domestic policy. Kremlin propaganda is drawing an image of “Powerful Russia” returning to the world political scene, that’s why the Russian side is ready to turn a blind eye to many things.
Interesting developments are taking place around Israeli air strikes on Syria, the heaviest of which took place on 10 May 2018. And this time Russian air defense systems didn’t protect its Syrian and Iranian “allies”.
Russia not only refuses to protect its ally – Bashar Assad from Israel’s air strikes, at the request of Israel Moscow also cancelled the S-300 missile system supply contract with Syria signed in 2010. Russia often uses S-300 missile system supply contracts with Iran and Syria as subjects of geopolitical trading.
But it may seem strange only for those, who are not familiar with the subtleties of Russian policy and relations between Russia and Israel. To illustrate the character of those relations, we can mention the fact that Israel hasn’t supported Western sanctions neither on the Crimea issue, nor on the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
What is it about the interests of Russia and Israel? First of all, Israel, as a state that has modern technologies and certain influence in the world, has much to offer to Russia, in exchange to Moscow’s neutrality.
For example, Israel can abandon the supplies of certain types of weapons to Georgia and Ukraine (Russia directly and by means of proxy forces, controlled by them, has occupied part of their territories), Israel also can transfer certain military technology to Russia.
Strong Jewish lobby can help Russia, which is under international sanctions, in certain issues. Putin can also use these trusting relations in his domestic agenda.
Secondly, Russia is less than enthusiastic about Iran’s presence in Syria; Moscow would like to get rid of their rivals, using Israel. The participation of the Israeli Prime Minister at the parade in honor of the Victory Day on May 9 in Moscow and Israel’s massive attacks on Iranian objects in Syria on May 10, clearly show the basic agreement of Moscow.
Russian state media outlets explicitly write about “Russian victory in Iranian-Israeli conflict”. Thirdly, by getting rid of Iranians in Syria by means of Israel, Russia can actually get sole control over Syria. So Putin will be able to use the Syrian map in his geopolitical trades with the West.
In addition, by putting an end to the Iranian presence in Syria, Israel, on one hand, will secure its borders, on the other hand, will significantly complicate things for pro-Iranian Hezbollah.
Right now, the Iranian forces are trapped in Syria, they are not protected by their Russian ally and at the same time Israel can methodically attack and destroy the Iranian forces in Syria, without any punishment.The cooperation between Israel and Russia in Syria will probably grow, as they have the same aim right now – to get rid of Iran.
Ali Hajizade is a political analyst and founder editor in chief of thegreatmiddleeast.com. He tweets @AHajizade.