Blaming Israel for Downing Plane, Russia to Sell S-300 Air Defense System to Syria; Bolton: ‘Significant Escalation’
by Benjamin Kerstein
Russia will sell Syria the advanced S-300 air defense system following the downing of a Russian plane that the Kremlin blames on Israel.
According to the Hebrew website Walla, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who informed the prime minister of the sale and said he rejected Israel’s claim that Syrian air defenses accidentally shot down the Russian plane.
The New York Times reports that the Trump administration called the sale a “major mistake,” with National Security Adviser John Bolton describing it as a “significant escalation.”
Israel’s Channel Two quotes Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov saying that ongoing Israeli airstrikes are harming relations between Israel and Russia, and that Russia’s response to the downing of the plane was intended to “increase the security” of Russian soldiers in Syria.
“In this case, Russia is acting only in accordance with its interests,” Peskov said. “These actions are not intended against third-party states but for the defense of our army.”
He also once again explicitly claimed that Israel was responsible for shooting down the Russian plane, stating, “According to our military experts, the reason for the downing was intentional actions by Israeli pilots. These are actions that could cause harm to [our] relations.”
Israeli analyst Amir Bohbot wrote on Sunday that Russia is exploiting the incident in order to “impose new rules of the game” in Syria to shore up Putin’s prestige, which has been damaged by ongoing Israeli airstrikes against Iranian targets in the war-torn country.
Netanyahu, wrote Bohbot, “will be required to fight not for Israel’s honor but for the freedom of action of the Israeli Air Force and the ability to stand up for its security interests. … Any result other than maintaining the IDF’s freedom of action will be considered a failure.”