Writing just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in earnest, Eldad Shavit, Udi Dekel, and Anat Kurz examine the conflict’s implications for the Jewish state, and for the dangerous region in which it resides:
The possibility that Russia might exploit the [situation] in Syria to demonstrate to the United States that it can increase the volatility of arenas other than Eastern Europe is already materializing. Moscow has recently been making it difficult for Israel to wage its campaign against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and Tehran’s efforts to transfer weapons through Syrian territory to Hizballah in Lebanon.
In January Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that Russian and Syrian aircraft had conducted a joint patrol in the skies of the Golan Heights, and that Moscow and Damascus intend to continue doing so. This was a clear message to Israel that Russia has the ability, if it chooses, to impede Israel’s struggle against the Iranian axis as it presents in Syrian territory. This should also be seen as a step aimed at making it clear to Jerusalem that from its perspective there is a risk in taking sides in the crisis between Russia and NATO, and as a message to Washington that Moscow has additional points of leverage.
[Moreover], an American response to a Russian attack on Ukraine, which would isolate Russia and deepen the sanctions imposed on it, is expected to have negative consequences for Israel. As part of the Russian response against the United States’ allies, it is possible that Moscow would cut off the Russian-Israeli operational coordination and try to thwart Israeli strikes in Syria using Russian air-defense systems and interception aircraft. Simultaneously, it is possible that Russia would refrain from restraining Iran and even encourage it to use its proxies, not only against the American forces in Syria, but also against Israel.