TEL AVIV — Russian plans to possibly supply Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime with new air defense systems can only be viewed as defiance of the West and an expression of Moscow’s willingness to aid Iran in solidifying its military infrastructure in Syria.
On Monday, the Kommersant newspaper in Russia cited military sources saying that Russia might supply anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria at an unspecified date. Russian Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi said such deliveries could begin “in the nearest future.”
In response to the reports, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying that Russia had not made any decision about whether to deliver the game changing advanced S-300 anti-missile systems to Assad. He further claimed that U.S.-led Western strikes targeting alleged Syrian chemical facilities earlier this month had removed any “moral obligations” regarding the withholding of the S-300 system.
“We’ll have to wait to see what specific decisions the Russian leadership and representatives of Syria will take,” Lavrov said during a visit to Beijing. “There is probably no secret about this and it can all be announced (if a decision is taken).”
Fearful the S-300 could impede its ability to strike targets in Syria, Israel has reportedly petitioned Russia against supplying the advanced system to Assad and has already purchased a fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets that may be able to avoid detection.
Russia has been playing a dangerous game in Syria. Seeking to expand its influence, Moscow has been working with Iran and Assad to quell the years-long insurgency targeting Assad’s regime while protecting its own military sites in the country. At the same time, Moscow has not directly interfered in Israeli or Western airstrikes inside Syria. The transfer of advanced anti-missile systems to Syria would mark a strategic change in Russia’s approach, enabling Assad and his Iranian controllers to more seriously confront Israeli or U.S.-led strikes.
Israel remains largely free to act in Syria to protect against Iranian designs. On April 9, strikes blamed on Israel hit the Iran-run T-4 military base that was reportedly used to operate Iran’s advanced drone fleet. The strikes came after the base was brazenly used by Iran to send an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into Israeli territory in February before it was quickly shot down by the Israeli military. The IDF revealed its investigation concluded the Iranian drone sent from T-4 was carrying explosives and seemingly deployed to attack an Israeli target.
Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein claimed to the Ynetnews website that Israel is not the intended target of any military deliveries to Syria.
While that may be technically accurate, such deliveries protect Assad against Israeli or Western strikes and by extension aid Assad’s Iranian puppet masters in securing their significant military infrastructure to Israel’s north in Syria. Already, Russia in 2016 completed delivery of the S-300 to Iran for homefront protection despite Israeli and Western concerns.
Haaretz reported on the S-300’s potential impact on Israeli Air Force operations:
The advanced versions of the S-300 are capable of tracking dozens of airborne targets simultaneously, at hundreds of kilometers. Almaz-Antey, the Russian state-owned manufacturer, claims it can also shoot down cruise and ballistic missiles.
The current air defense systems operated by Syria’s military are of an earlier Soviet generation, and an S-300 would allow it to track IAF aircraft taking off from their bases within Israel.
As Russia more aggressively flirts with transferring its advanced systems to Assad, the ensuing rhetoric demonstrates the potential for open confrontation between the various actors in the Syrian theater.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to the reports of the possible S-300 transfer by warning, “One thing should be clear – if someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them.” He continued, “What’s important to us is that the weapons defense systems that the Russians transfer to Syria are not used against us. If they are used against us, we will act against them.”
Russia reacted with an unnamed military source telling state-run media, “If Israel decides to carry out rocket strikes on the deployment locations of the S-300, the consequences will be catastrophic for all sides.”
Actually, it is Russian actions that may result in catastrophic consequences. Russia’s potential defense system transfers could lead to American or Israeli warplanes shot down in the future by Syrian forces acting with Iranian guidance and utilizing Russian defense systems.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.