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Russian Military Plane Shot Down by Syria

On Monday, September 17, a Russian military plane was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft defenses. Following the incident, Moscow placed full blame on Israel for their actions that resulted in the death of 15 Russians.

 An II-20 Russian military plane. This is not the plane that was shot down, it just pictures the version of the plane that was shot down in September 2018. Credit: Kirill Naumenko/ Wikipedia

An II-20 Russian military plane. This is not the plane that was shot down, it just pictures the version of the plane that was shot down in September 2018. Credit: Kirill Naumenko/Wikipedia

The Syrian defenses were supposedly targeting Israeli aircraft since Israeli pilots were executing an attack on a facility in the Latakia province they believe was used to manufacture weapons. Russian military personnel believe that the Israelis intentionally used the Russian aircraft as a defense against the Syrian missiles while they were carrying out their attack. The Russian plane was from the Soviet era and thus much more noticeable than the Israeli jets. The anti-aircraft defense system that was used by Syrians to shoot down the Russian plane was actually sold to Syria from Russia a few years ago.

In addition, the Russians report that they were given less than a minute’s notice which did not give the Russian military plane enough time to avoid the incident. Moscow places full blame on Israel because of what they deem “irresponsible actions” and because they feel as though Israel abused the communication protocol between the two countries that is meant to avoid such incidents.

Putin attempted to calm the confrontation between Russia and Israel by attributing the incident to “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances.” Putin’s attitude was most likely an attempt to avoid a disruption in military relations between the two countries. Before Putin came to power, Russia and Israel had a very different relationship. They were on opposing sides during the Cold War and it wasn’t until after Putin and Ariel Sharon were elected around 2000 that Russian-Israeli relations began to improve. Since then, they have been tightly intertwined economically, militarily, and culturally - Russians from the former Soviet Union make up nearly 15% of Israel’s population.

Israel responded to the Kremlin’s blame by arguing that the Syrians were at fault because they were using the anti-aircraft defense inaccurately and on a rather large scale. They also claimed that their aircraft was out of Syrian airspace by the time the Russian military plane was targeted.

From Putin’s response to the event, it is clear that he values Russia’s current relations with Israel and seeks to preserve the status quo in order to further his interests elsewhere.