The Ministry of Defense attributed last Monday's "chain of tragic circumstances", as President Putin described it, to the reckless midair tactical maneuver that an Israeli jet carried out in order to evade an incoming S-200 missile that ended up instead retargeting and ultimately taking down a Russian spy plane. 15 servicemen were killed in the incident, and the hitherto excellent relationship between Russia and Israel was immediately put on life support.
The two parties had previously agreed to a so-called "deconfliction mechanism" immediately prior to the commencement of Russia's anti-terrorist intervention in Syria in late September 2015 which was designed to specifically prevent unfortunate incidents such as this one, but Moscow accused Tel Aviv of failing to abide by its commitments after only informing it 25 out of the more than 200 times that it bombed Syria in the past 18 months. The Ministry of Defense also said that Israel only gave Russia less than a minute's notice during last week's fateful bombing run, thus making it impossible for the spy plane to move out of the area of operations and therefore contributing to the tragedy.
In response to the threat that Israel's recklessness poses to Russian servicemen, Moscow said that it will send S-300s to Syria and specifically remarked that this will enable it to close parts of the country's airspace. Israel previously vowed to destroy the S-300s if Syria used them to target its jets, claiming that Tel Aviv is only bombing the Arab Republic in order to thwart Iran and Hezbollah's ambitions to build missiles there that it fears will be used to one day attack it. A lot of ambiguities regarding Russia's decision remain to be clarified, such as whether Damascus will have full and independent control over the S-300s or not, and whether they'll be used to enforce a "no-fly zone" over the American-occupied northeastern part of the country too.
However it plays out and be it symbolically or even substantively, Russia's decision to send S-300s to Syria draws a new line in the line for both it and Israel.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Ali Musawi, war correspondent who covered the liberation of Mosul in Iraq, and Khaled Al-Kassimi, IR Doctoral candidate/ Near East political commentator.
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