The Russian press is actively harping on about the Putin regime’s “absolute dominance” in the Middle East. Following the withdrawal of the final contingent of US troops from Syria and video clips of Russian troops occupying an abandoned US base, the morale of pro-Putin journalists has skyrocketed, and they have started using militant headlines proclaiming the supremacy of Russian weaponry.
The Russian web site Lenta.ru published an article titled “Israel fears Russia as the new Master of the Middle East”. The article itself outlines Israeli politicians’ supposed fears based on an article in the Times of Israel, which of course mentions nothing whatsoever about Israel fearing “the new master of the Middle East”.
The news outlet Avia.pro has expressed itself just as unequivocally: “Russia gave Israel an ultimatum and it worked,” the title claims. The authors of the article speculate that during the last meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Putin warned that Russia is prepared to “radically change its attitude towards the Israeli operation” unless Jerusalem ceases its attacks on the Arab republic.
The article moves on to claim that “Israel has not subsequently made a single air strike against Syria, at least not an officially confirmed one”.
Indeed, the Syrian state news agency Sana has not been reporting airstrikes against facilities around Damascus recently. However, there have been numerous reports of mysterious explosions on the Syria-Iraq border at pro-Iranian military bases. The Iraqi government blames Israel for these attacks and has promised to retaliate. The most recent attack was just over a week ago, on October 14.
No one knows exactly how these attacks are being made, although it is most likely being done with drones or stealth aircraft. Russia has been silent about these attacks, as if they did not exist, even though the objects under fire have mostly been situated in Syrian territory.
The Israeli columnists describe the scenario as follows: Iran, having realized that Russia is either incapable or unwilling to protect its facilities in Syria against Israeli attacks, has moved its activity deeper into Syria, to the city of Abu Kamal on the border with Iraq, only to be chased down by attacks from an “unidentified” air force.
It’s clear that Russia is willing to sacrifice far more on the “altar of war” than the Europeans, and somewhat more than the US, and thus holds an advantage in the current “military poker”.
However, Russia does not actually have much “room to maneuver” – it strives for bloodless victories, acting only when it is guaranteed a “blitzkrieg”. In the event of a real war with a serious opponent and which other countries could get involved in, the Putin regime would find itself in a tricky situation.
Aware of Israel’s willingness under certain circumstances to follow through and even sacrifice soldiers’ lives, Russia is unlikely to decide to seriously threaten the Israelis in a way that puts the two countries on the brink of war, even if it costs Russia its “friendship” with the Assad regime.