The IDF is in a panic about the Russian military’s presence and deployment of sophisticated weaponry in the region, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Sunday.
According to the report, though the IDF is not admitting this openly, high-ranking officers have said behind closed doors that the “surprising” quality and quantity of Russian systems in the area is dramatically hampering the way the Israeli Air Force and Navy are able to operate.
Both these branches of the IDF, according to Channel 2, were used to flying and sailing wherever and whenever they saw fit, with no real threat to their movement. But since Russia began to intervene in the Syrian civil war last year in an attempt to protect the regime of President Bashar Assad, things have changed.
One particular worry, the report said, was the impending arrival of the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s flagship aircraft carrier, which is on its way from the North Sea to the Middle East, and is expected to anchor off the Mediterranean coast of Syria in the coming weeks.
The Kuznetsov force is made up of some 1,900 sailors, more than 50 advanced fighter jets, the latest aeronautical defense systems, radars and among the world’s best electronic warfare capabilities. The force has anti-submarine capabilities and boats with a wide range of missiles for aerial photography and intelligence-gathering.
The report said Israeli defense officials admit that the Russians know about every movement Israel makes in its air and sea space, as there is no way to elude Russian radars, and thus Russia has been able to collect massive amounts of information.
As was reported by The Algemeiner in April, the Russians announced several months ago that they were leaving Syria. Since then, however, according to Channel 2, they have been dispatching more ground troops to the area; they have increased their air power; and they have brought in ground-to-air missiles — with a range of more than 200 kilometers – and are capable of employing cruise and ballistic missiles, planes and drones. At present, they are also reinforcing their naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean, in parallel with a decrease in the presence of the US Navy there.
In addition, a spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry recently issued a veiled threat, presumably to Israel, by stating, “If anyone thinks he can hide behind stealth technology, let him think again.” This, said Channel 2, was in reference to the F-35 stealth planes that Israel is acquiring from the US.
Meanwhile, the Russian parliament approved an unlimited time frame for the deployment of the country’s air force, which means that Israel could face having the bulk of its areas of interest covered by S-300 and S-400 advanced missile defense systems for decades to come. And it is this understanding that spurred Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fly to Moscow in the spring with the commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, to discuss military coordination with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
As was reported in The Algemeiner, Netanyahu made this trip to create a mechanism for avoiding unwanted collisions between Israeli and Russian planes.
Despite the arrangement agreed upon between Netanyahu and Putin, however, two Russian drones were shot down, which nearly caused a confrontation between Israeli and Russian planes, Channel 2 said. In addition, two ground-to-air missiles were fired at Israeli jets, though Russia claimed they belonged to a Syrian battery.
In an interview with The Algemeiner in June, Mideast and Russia expert Zvi Magen said that the ties between Netanyahu and Putin involve realpolitik, with Israel protecting its interests, chief among them ensuring that sophisticated weapons do not fall into the hands of the Lebanon-based Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and allied with Russia in the fight to keep Assad in power.
(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal