Since 2015, when Russia first acknowledged its military presence in Syria, the conventional wisdom has been that relations between Jerusalem and Moscow have remained good: numerous meetings have taken place between Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin, and Russia has continued to tolerate Israeli airstrikes in Syria. Some have even spoken of a “bromance” between the two leaders, as a result of which the Kremlin could now be counted on to restrain its ally Iran. Yet Moscow’s reaction to the recent Syrian downing of a Russian plane, and its decision to provide Damascus with the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, suggest a less sanguine conclusion. Indeed, writes Yigal Carmon, they merely reveal what was true all along: Russia is no friend of the Jewish state.
One year ago, Russia’s mask of non-hostility toward Israel was still in place, in the form of strategic coordination with Israel regarding the latter’s bombings in Syria. This allowed Russia to conceal that it fully sided with Israel’s enemies: Syria and Iran. Even as it refrained from trying to stop Israel from bombing Iranian targets in Syria, Putin’s Russia was simultaneously enabling and sponsoring Iran’s expansion into Syria. . . .
[In fact], strategic Israel-Russia coordination of Israeli bombings in Syria served Russian interests, [since] an Israel-Russia military escalation could only draw the United States into the melee and thus expose Russia as a mere regional power that was no match for the U.S. . . .
Now the picture is crystal-clear: the Russians, who originally enabled and sponsored the Iranian expansion in Syria as an anti-American measure, now also protect the Iranians in Syria from Israeli attacks. This constitutes an undeclared act of war against Israel by an enemy, i.e., Russia—since it will not be the Syrians operating the S-300s against Israeli aircraft, because [Syrian personnel] face a long learning curve [before mastering them]; it will, for an indeterminate time, be Russian officers. . . .
Russia’s true face has been revealed not only in the military/strategic sphere—by providing S-300s to Syria—but also by its reversion to the old Russian/Soviet anti-Semitism that not even President Putin’s “special relationship” with Chabad can camouflage. The former Israeli ambassador to Russia Zvi Magen noted [that] “the media blamed Israel on the day of crisis [over the Syrian downing of the Russian plane] in a well-timed orchestrated manner, filled with anti-Semitic elements. This wasn’t random.”
Given Russia’s actual policy toward Israel, this should come as no surprise.