Russia has agreed to deploy the S300 anti-aircraft missile system in response to the downing of a reconnaissance plane that killed 15 Russian servicemen. Russian President discussed the delivery with Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad on Monday, and the system is expected to be in Syria within two weeks. Russia also plans to jam communications and GPS on the Mediterranean Sea, in moves the US described as “a significant escalation”.
In a continuation of strongly worded statements since the incident, Russia called Israel’s action an “ungrateful response” against a country that had done a lot for the Jewish state, speculating whether Israel valued warm relations between the two countries.
The IL-20 was shot down on its way back to an airbase by Syrian air defences over Latakia in a case of friendly fire, with Russia accusing Israel of using the plane as a cover to execute strikes inside Syrian airspace. Israel defended its actions by insisting the operation was over and its jets back in Israel by the time the plane was shot down, shifting blame on Syria for the incident.
Russia still insisted the big picture is to better protect the lives of its personnel in Syria, as the new system is able to distinguish between friendly and enemy targets. It also stated that it had held back the deployment of the missile system as a “favour” to Israel as an agreement had been reached with Syria since 2013. The shooting down of the plane led Moscow to quickly reverse that decision. The system also has better range, worrying Israel which argued that having such advanced weapons under the control of “irresponsible actors” would make the region more unsafe. It also stated it would persist in operations against Hezbollah and Iran in the region.
Russia runs a key base in Syria’s Latakia province in its stated mission to fight international terrorism and has played a great role in propping up Assad’s regime in the face of rebel attacks backed by the US, Israel, Turkey and several neighbouring Arab states. Moscow has also taken mediation roles in the conflict, convincing Iranian troops to withdraw from positions near the Israeli border just last month.