Israel and the US sent secret military delegations to Ukraine to train against the Russian S-300 missile defence system which was shipped to Syria last month.
The Israeli and US delegations arrived in Ukraine, where members of the Ukrainian military allegedly instructed them on “the capabilities of the [S-300] system, as well as running through various possible scenarios,” the Times of Israel reported.
The claim was first reported by Israel’s Hadashot TV yesterday, which cited Syrian and Russian news outlets as its source. The Times of Israel added that “one Russian report said F-15 planes are training in Ukraine against the S-300 as part of an international exercise that includes Israeli pilots.” Neither Israel nor the US were willing to comment on the reports.
That Israel and the US feel the need to secretly train their militaries to deal with the S-300 will be seen as the latest evidence of the regional allies’ concern over the defence system’s capabilities. Both powers were spooked by Russia’s delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria in late September and had previously endeavoured to prevent the move. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that the delivery of the missiles to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces would be completed within two weeks and that “after that incident […] the measures that we will take will be devoted to ensuring 100 per cent safety and security of our men”.
The incident to which Lavrov referred was a diplomatic row sparked by the downing of a Russian military plane earlier in September. Assad’s regime allegedly mistook the Russian jet for an Israeli plane, having simultaneously been responding to Israeli fighter jets mounting air attacks on targets in Syria’s coastal region of Latakia. Russia’s Defence Ministry claimed that the Israeli jets carrying out the strikes in Latakia used the Russian plane as cover to allow them to approach their targets without being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
Russia blamed Israel for the incident and the loss of 15 Russian personnel, calling Israel’s actions “irresponsible” and accusing it of not giving Moscow sufficient notice of the attack. Israel’s army was forced to open an investigation into the incident, dispatching the Air Force Chief to present its findings in the Russian capital. Only ten days after the incident, Russia decided to act on its long-postponed decision to deliver the S-300 missiles to Syria.
Israel, Russia and the US have been engaged in the Syrian Civil War – which has been ongoing since 2011 – in support of the various factions operating on the ground. Russia has openly supported the Assad regime, while the US has supported a host of opposition groups and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in their bid to overthrow the regime. Despite officially declaring neutrality, Israel has engaged in numerous air strikes across Syria and cited concerns about the presence of Iranian forces in the region as justification.