Russia ‘Gravely Concerned’ over Israeli Presence in Syria While Expanding Military Presence in Eastern Europe

Russia ‘Gravely Concerned’ over Israeli Presence in Syria While Expanding Military Presence in Eastern Europe

Following months of questionably legal military behavior in eastern Ukraine and over the Baltic states, government officials in Moscow are expressing concern to United Nations Secretary General Ban-ki Moon regarding reports that Israel launched an airstrike near Damascus, Syria.

“Moscow is gravely concerned about this dangerous turn of events, the circumstances of which require explanations,” said the Kremlin. “In any case, there is no doubt that the use of force in international affairs is unacceptable and deserves to be condemned. It is important not to allow further destabilization of the already tense situation in Syria and the Middle East region as a whole.”

The alleged Israel strikes occurred near the Damascus International Airport. Israel did not confirm or deny if their air force took part in the airstrike. In the past, Israel “targeted weapons allegedly destined for arch-for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.” Hezbollah said two members died in the attacks, including one senior official. 

Russia is one of the last remaining allies of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. Since the civil war started three years ago, Russia has sent arms and military equipment to Assad to fight the rebels. In October 2013, Rep. Mike Rogers said Russia supplied Syria with “very sophisticated systems that could be just as dangerous as chemical weapons.” Despite warnings and pressure to deescalate the situation (similar to Moscow’s letter to the UN), Moscow did not change course and still supplies Assad with weapons.

The irony is thick in the statement, considering Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine. They accuse Israel of doing the very thing they commit in Ukraine. Russia immediately escalated tensions with the West after Ukraine ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. The Kremlin annexed Crimea from Ukraine and placed over 40,000 troops along the Russia-Ukraine border. East Ukraine rioted over Yanukovych’s ouster, and Russian President Vladimir Putin used it to his advantage to keep Ukraine within Russia’s grasp. The new leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk region were from Russia, not Ukraine. The first leader was Alexander Borodai, a Russian from Moscow. In July, he admitted to the BBC he had “regular contact with members of the Russian security service.” He quit in August amid reports of infighting between the pro-Russians. Russia barely recognized or acknowledged Ukraine’s presidential elections in May. But when the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held their own elections in November, Moscow said that “the vote should be respected.”

Since March, reporters and civilians confirmed Russian soldiers and tanks are positioned in the east to help the pro-Russian militants fight against the pro-West government. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted Moscow sends the militants “humanitarian” aid, but he did not elaborate on what the aid includes. One militant leader, however, admitted the aid includes military equipment.

Even though Moscow provides these pro-Russian militants with weapons and seasoned soldiers, the Kremlin warned the West not to meddle with Ukraine. In August, Putin warned the West not to supply Ukraine with lethal arms.

“We repeatedly heard confirmations from the (US) administration that only non-lethal weapons would be delivered to Ukraine,” said Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. “If there is a change in this policy, then this is a highly destabilizing factor that could seriously influence the balance of power in the region.”

Yet, at the same time, Moscow provides arms and soldiers to the militants. Such weapons allegedly played a role in the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which was shot down over militant-controlled Ukraine with a BUK missile system. Evidence shows Russia supplied the militants with the missile system in the attack that killed all 298 people on board.

Russia’s protests that Israel and Western nations are “meddling” in outside affairs ring especially hollow in light of the recent history of military belligerence the Putin administration has displayed.