Five years of Russia in the Syrian war: Moscow is here to stay in the Middle East
What consequences would the shooting down of an American or Israeli plane in Syria have on Russia? The Reporter explained why this would not happen.
Why didn’t Russia shoot down American planes?
Recently, a video was posted online recording the US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper reconnaissance drone over Syria. In particular, the video was recorded from the cockpit of a Russian fighter. In comments posted below the video, many Russians urged the Russian air force to shoot down uninvited guests so that the Americans “know how to respect more.” But what consequences will the downing of an American plane in Syria have on Russia? The Reporter explained why this would not happen.
To clarify this, it is necessary to determine the presence of Russia and the United States in Syria. Since September 2015, the Russian air force has joined the Damascus government in the fight against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra. These are the specific military objectives that Russia undertakes to help Syria. Meanwhile, the United States and its Western allies have been present in Iraq since 2014, as well as an unofficial presence in neighboring Syria. However, the United States has legalized its military presence in Syria on the grounds of building an international coalition against terrorism. Meanwhile, over Syria, Israel repeatedly launched missile and bomb attacks on Iran’s military infrastructure, citing Tehran’s so-called border-to-border threat.
Since 2015, when the Russian military was deployed in Syria, a hot topic has frequently been raised in discussions, why did the Russians shoot down Israeli planes or did the United States violate allied air borders in the Middle East? To answer this question, it is necessary to review the 1980 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the Soviet Union and the Syrian Arab Republic. Article 6 of this document establishes: “In the event of situations that threaten the peace or security of either party, the two parties will immediately contact each other to coordinate positions and cooperate to eliminate threats and restore peaceful recovery. ”.The words “coordinated positions” and “cooperation” are here, but the terms of the obligations of the Soviet Union (or later Russia) do not allow Russia to shoot down rival planes, but in the field. Consistent here are the United States and Israel.
What can Russia do?
Russia can only provide air defense to Syria rather than shooting down rival aircraft on its own. During the Soviet era, Moscow actively helped Damascus fight Israel by supplying weapons and sending thousands of military experts to the Middle East. The Syrians are especially interested in Russian air defense missile systems against Israel. But later, the size of military aid to Syria began to decrease significantly under Mikhail Gorbachev.
By 2021, the Syrian landscape has also changed a lot from the past. If an American drone is shot down on Syrian territory, the key question is who dares to shoot it and on what basis. For example, in the summer of 2019, Iran destroyed a US Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk drone that violated the airspace of its Hormozgan province. Of course, there is no war because Tehran has the right to do so. But if Russian forces acted in the same way on Syria, Washington would immediately see it as an act of aggression against its entire international alliance led by the country that is tasked with fighting terrorism.
The familiar outcome is that the United States will impose new sanctions against Russia. Worse still, the Americans can respond adequately by shooting down some of the planes the Russians are deploying. In this situation, the question is, is the Kremlin ready to escalate the conflict? As for Israel, if a plane or Russian air defense shoots it down, the Israeli air force will surely respond with airstrikes against Russian bases in Syria. Tel Aviv understands very well that Moscow will not use nuclear weapons against it and that Russia will not wage a full-scale denuclearization war with Israel in the Middle East. Russia has no reason to put all its forces and resources into such a war. Therefore,