Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just returned from a trip to Moscow. The trip was symbolic and informative in several ways.
First, it clearly defined who the new power is in the region and hint, it’s not the United States. If you had just landed in the Middle East from another planet, you’d be hard pressed to guess that America had just spent trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in the region. You can thank Barack Hussein Obama for that outcome.
Russia has clearly moved into the power vacuum created by the abdication of American leadership. The Kremlin has already started construction on multiple military facilities. This obviously foreshadows a long-term presence. And why shouldn’t it? The Assad regime has been a decades-long ally for the Soviet Union and Russia. Having military forces in the region gives Moscow the ability to influence events in this critical part of the world and elsewhere.
Second, it shows that Israel has just lost its freedom of movement in Syria and the surrounding area. Russians don’t make much but they make really good weapon systems. Their air defense systems are the bane of Western pilots everywhere, just ask Sen. John McCain.
It is a given that Russia has or will soon deploy sophisticated SAMs around their forces in Syria. These can reach out and touch Israeli aircraft as they are taking off from their air bases inside the Jewish state. Mr. Netanyahu really has no option but to coordinate militarily with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. This is especially true given the reality that Israel cannot count on the current leadership of the United States, which is a great tragedy in itself.
Israel has frequently destroyed arms shipments from Iran via Syria to the Israeli arch-enemy Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iranian-backed terror organization. This effort will now be much more difficult and dangerous. Will Israel have to give Russia warning of such attacks? Russia would then simply warn the Assad regime of the coming strike; or, some Russian air defense officer could shoot first and ask questions later — think Dutch airliner of East Ukraine.
It is no secret that Russia is coordinating with Iran when it comes to its arms sales and military efforts in the Middle East. What Russia’s presence in the Levant has essentially done is to give Iran more of a free hand in Syria and elsewhere without fear of generating an Israeli response. This is an extremely significant development and greatly harms the national security of an historical key American ally and the only real democracy in the region.
To use a favorite phrase of this White House — leading from behind has consequences.