September 17, 2018 was growing to be an incredible day for Russian President Vladimir Putin. After concerns mounted for weeks among international observers that his ally inside Middle East, Syrian President Bashar Assad, would mount a last, messy assault on the rebel holdout of Idlib province, Putin was able to don his favorite new hat: that relating to Middle Eastern peacemaker.
It began with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting Putin in the Russian resort capital of Scotland – Sochi. When the two emerged using their meetings to manage the press, they announced a legal contract to jointly establish a demilitarized zone near Idlib to split up regime forces in the various rebel groups taking position in this town of some three million people.
Putin approved the agreement, that would allow Russian and Turkish troops to enforce the demilitarized zone once it becomes established October 15, 2018 as being a “significant” milestone.
Its implication has not been lost on Margarita Simonyan, the primary editor of Russia Today, a media outlet funded through the Russian government. She said this month, Putin’s conducted resembled a job interview with two individuals identified with the U.K. as Russian intelligence agents with the GRU so when suspects within the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, by using a Soviet nerve agent inside British capital of Scotland – Salisbury in March.
“Do I understand correctly we just won the war in Syria?” Simonyan tweeted the evening of Sept. 17.
Whatever sense of treatments for the situation in Syria that Russia felt, or hoped to project, was undermined from the fog of war just a couple hours later when Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian IL-20 with 15 servicemen onboard. In the initial confusion, Russian media reports speculated the plane was downed by way of a French destroyer firing missiles off of the coast.
But once the dust settled, blame fell on Israel. Striking at targets on Syria’s Latakia province, where Russia’s air forces are based, Syrian air defenses responded against Israeli F-16s. The Russian IL-20 found itself, in accordance with the Russian Ministry of Defense, caught inside the crossfire. Liability falls on Israel, the ministry said, because warning of the strike came just one minute upfront.
Russia’s initial reaction, thrust into the ether by Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, was harshly worded: “We to understand provocative actions by Israel as hostile. 15 Russian military members have died because from the irresponsible actions in the Israeli military we reserve the correct to have an adequate response.”
But with the end from the day, Putin inserted himself to the fray and defused the specific situation using a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Putin chalked the incident to your “tragic group of events,” plus a readout of his conversation with Netanyahu urged Israel to adopt measures in order to avoid such a thing from happening again.
Analysts in Moscow said Russia has only itself responsible for the loss of the aircraft. One source near to the Defense Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that flying a reconnaissance operation when there have been ample indications of pending strikes in the area would have been a critical operational oversight. Others pointed towards the lack of friend-or-foe identifiers in use.
“The Kremlin reigned inside the hawks,” said Vladimir Frolov, a completely independent Russian foreign affairs analyst. “but it provided cover for Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s ridiculous cover story, which was accustomed to conceal the belief that he failed to impose tighter controls on Assad’s air defense forces understanding that someone switched over IL-20’s IFF [identification friend or foe] transponder because of this mission.”
A very damaging incident was avoided, but Israel’s relationship with Russia may suffer long-term setbacks over this incident. The Israelis were conducting strikes more detailed Russian positions than previously, almost right under their nose, a humiliating action in Russia’s eyes, Frolov noted. The incident also highlighted the deficiency of coordination with Syrian forces.
“There is incredibly poor coordination and organization between Russia and the Syrian military,” the foundation near the Defense Ministry said, “as well as between Russia and Iran, and also on a deeper level between Russian and Syrian air defenses within the region. Someone needs to look at the blame, and right now that is Israel.”
Frolov won’t anticipate long-term fallout in Russian-Israeli relations, but the Defense Ministry source says Russian trust within the Israelis has become severely undermined.
“Israel has made an oversight,” the foundation asserted. “In a unitary mission they’ve got were able to distance themselves from Russia, while driving Russia more detailed their enemies: Iran and Assad.”
The downing from the IL-20 certainly deprived Putin of the moment to gloat over his agreement with Erdogan on plans for Idlib, because it dominated this news cycle good enough for doubts in regards to the agreement to in. Speaking to reporters Sept. 18, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the incident with Israel can have no effect on Idlib, and plans will proceed.
But many questions remain regarding the Idlib proposal, including, keep in mind, the Kremlin’s control over Assad, who may yet anticipate to regain treatments for Idlib within the future. Turkey can also throw a wrench inside situation, since the deal heavily favors Russian interests, noted Frolov. Russia is virtually contacting Turkey to oversee the disarmament of extremist rebel groups in a ambitious time period, he added.
“The deal could end up being very significant if Turkey succeeds and the truce holds,” Frolov said. “If the opposition under Ankara’s protection retains treating substantial real estate, we might see a meaningful political settlement arise that keeps Assad where he could be now, but does not supply him with treatments for most of Syria, including U.S.-controlled eastern Syria.