by Akhmet Makhmoudov (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 2, Sha'ban, 1441)
Most reports that discuss Russia-Iran relations focus on their common position on Syria. They often ignore the close alliance between Russia and Zionist Israel that is equally important.
Prior to analyzing the Zionists’ alliance with Russia, it should be kept in mind that Tehran and Moscow are not strategic rivals. They may have divergent views on certain global political issues, but both also have strategic use for each other. However, they are not strategic allies.
Zionist Israel and Russia have some serious geopolitical differences of their own. Therefore, this analysis does not imply that there is necessarily strategic rivalry between Iran and Russia.
Against this backdrop, it would be useful to look at the Russia-Israel partnership through the perspective of Maxim Shevchenko, a prominent Russian journalist and former member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. This is a consultative body to the President of the Russian Federation.
During his February 2020 interview with the popular Moscow-based radio station, Echo of Moscow, Shevchenko dropped an analytical bombshell when he explained why Russia got involved in Syria.
Shevchenko pointed out that Russia’s military involvement in Syria came late, towards the end of 2015, when the Syrian government, Islamic Iran, Hizbullah and the Palestinian Liwa-Al-Quds had rolled back rebel advances and liberated Homs, a key rebel stronghold. Shevchenko stated that Russia is the only guarantee that Israel will not face any challenges on the Golan Heights and Iranian influence will be contained in Syria.
He explicitly stated that one of Moscow’s interests in Syria is to protect Israel from Iran-led resistance in the region. According to Shevchenko, Russia’s ruling caste has strong financial connections to Russian-Jewish tycoons with strong Israeli connections through concurring business interests. This is not a farfetched argument considering that in Russia, like most other places in the world, money and politics are closely intertwined.
Taking into account that Israel is a subsidized entity with a relatively small population, its $5 billion trade with Russia is a significant political and economic factor in Israeli longevity as an occupying entity.
Moscow’s relationship with Israel is not limited to politics and trade only. Israel Aerospace Industries, pretty much jump-started Russia’s military drone industry in 2010 signing a $400 million deal with Moscow. In 2019, Israel canceled military contracts with Ukraine in order not to anger Moscow.
There is also a social connection between Israel and Russia. As pointed out by Vladimir Putin in September 2019, during his speech to United Israel Appeal, a Zionist organization responsible for collecting funds, Putin stated that “Israel has almost 2 million Russian-speaking citizens. We consider Israel a Russian-speaking state.” Many Russian speaking Jews settle in occupied Palestine in order to later immigrate to Western countries using the relaxed policies of travel towards Israeli passport holders.
With the above in mind, it is not difficult to conclude that Russia and Israel are bonded together by solid interests. They conduct political business taking each other’s objectives and interests into consideration. On the ground this transforms into Moscow shutting its eyes on regular Israeli aerial bombardment of Syria. The Zionist entity regularly informs Moscow in advance of its strikes on Syria in order to avoid Russian casualties. During the 2015 visit to Moscow, Benjamin Netanyahu said that he and Putin “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings.”
Thus, it cannot be ruled out that Israeli attacks which have killed Iranian, Syrian and Hizbullah commanders in Syria were known to Russia in advance. Moscow regularly coordinates its military actions with Iran and its allies in Syria, as they are the ones who conduct the actual ground battle. Therefore, it is reasonable to deduce that Russia knew about all of Israel’s significant assassinations, as Russian personnel could have been with the assassinated Iranian, Lebanese or Syrian commanders.
While seasoned analysts can dispute the specifics of Russia’s cooperation with Israel in Syria, no one can deny their overall close ties. In this sort of situation, the post-war political developments in Syria will be as important as the current military ones.
No doubt, once the takfiri threat is significantly reduced, Moscow will aim to nudge the Syrian government to reduce Iran’s military and political presence in Syria in order to appease Israel. While this will certainly be attempted, there is no guarantee it will be successful.
NATO’s ability to destabilize Syria will remain in place for years to come, whether in the form of foreign-based militias, Idlib-type Wahhabistans or Europe-based “opposition.” Therefore, the Syrian government cannot afford to displease Iran, realizing well that their displeasure can cost the Syrian government more than the dissatisfaction of Russia.
At the same time, Russia cannot afford thousands of takfiri fighters from Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union to be organized as a political and military leverage by NATO against Syria. They will have greater access to military and logistical resources and naturally head back to Russia at some point for a rematch of the second Chechen war. Thus, if Iran scales back its participation in Syria, it will hit Moscow where it has historically hurt the most: its southern underbelly, the Caucasus.
While Russia will do its best to secure Israel’s interests in the Middle East, pushing too hard to protect Israel’s illegitimate interests can inflict significant regional setbacks on Moscow. This is a fact Russia is aware of. It should also be kept in mind that Russia and Israel also have some serious regional geopolitical differences. Some Russian-Jewish billionaires that moved to Israel do not see eye to eye with Putin on some domestic matters in Russia. Most prominent of these billionaires are Vladimir Gusinsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Leonid Nevzlin.
The true test of Russia-Israel and Russia-Iran relationships will not be tested in the Middle East but in the post-Soviet space where all three have a very complicated set of interests and objectives. For example, in Georgia, Israel backs the pro-Western political elites with strong anti-Russian fervor. A similar situation applies to Armenia.
In the North Caucasus, Boris Berezovsky (the now deceased) Israeli-Russian tycoon and his confidants were linked to the Chechen pro-independence movement. Today, many of the pro-independence minded Chechens are leading figures within takfiri groups in Syria fighting the Syrian government and Iran.
Overall, the Russian-Israeli alliance is here to stay and so is Russia’s cooperation with Iran. The objective of Israel will be to widen a gap between Iran and Russia, an objective difficult to achieve in the Middle East, but much easier to accomplish in the post-Soviet region once the status quo there is inevitably shaken.