Putin Corrects Mistakes by Biting His Tongue on Telephone with Assad and Netanyahu
by John Helmer - Dances with Bears
September 25, 2018
Moscow - Last week President Vladimir Putin triggered the most serious crisis of his presidency, as the Defence Ministry and the Russian General Staff (Stavka) declared that Putin’s explanation for the downing of the Ilyushin-20 electronic reconnaissance aircraft by Israeli fighters was false, and worse –capitulation to Israel.
Sources in Moscow report the military’s loss of confidence in the Commander-in-Chief has not been seen in public since President Boris Yeltsin countermanded orders for Russian military aid to Serbia under NATO bombing between March and June 1999, dismissing Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on the US demand.
“[Putin] has blundered with Erdogan, with Netanyahu,” commented one Moscow source.
“In making all his concessions, one after another, Putin has been watched very carefully. His civilian advisors – [Foreign Policy Advisor Yury] Ushakov in particular – are making mistakes. They expect[ed] the show of strength in Syria would have changed US and European attitudes, and they would listen. They didn’t. So the Russian military have reminded Putin – we told you so.”
On Monday morning, following an unprecedented Sunday briefing at the Defence Ministry, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced measures which Putin has repeatedly dismissed over many years. The new Russian war policy puts a stop to Putin’s assurances to the US, the European NATO powers and Israel that he was resisting the recommendations of his General Staff. Putin’s resistance ended on Monday morning. Shoigu and the Stavka ended it.
Shoigu’s measures were announced (right) between 11 and 12 noon on Monday, and broadcast on the state media within minutes. In effect, Shoigu declared a 400-kilometre no-fly zone for all foreign aircraft over Syria or the sea and land approaches to Syria from Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Also excluded are aircraft from the US base at Al-Tanf, inside Syria, and the British airbase at Akrotiri, Cyprus.
“The Syrian Armed Forces will be supplied with the advanced S-300 air defense missile system within two weeks,” Shoigu declared.
“It is capable of intercepting air threats at a range of more than 250 kilometers and simultaneously hitting several aerial targets… Command posts of the Syrian troops and military air defense units will be equipped with [the] automatic control systems, which have been supplied only to the Russian Armed Forces. This will ensure the centralized management of all Syrian air defense forces and facilities, monitoring of the situation in the airspace and prompt target designation.”
Shoigu’s double reference — to the range of the S-300 and to centralized command-and-control – means that the S-400 radars already installed for the defence of the Russian air base at Khmeimim and the naval base at Tartous will extend Syrian air defence to a range of more than 400 kilometres.
DETECTION AND STRIKE RANGES FOR THE RUSSIAN AIR DEFENCES OF SYRIA
The red zone is the maximum strike range of the S-400s based at Khmeimim; the blue zone is the maximum zone of detection by the Russian radars and other sensors on the ground at Khmeimim. The Tartous base is on the coast 60 kilometres due south. Both ranges can of course be extended by reconnaissance and strike aircraft flying out of Khmeimim; the operations centre at Tartous coordinating Russian Navy deployments; and additional Russian aircraft flying out of Iran. Source: http://warnewsupdates.blogspot.com
“Russia will jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft, which attack targets in the Syrian territory, in the regions over the waters of the Mediterranean Sea bordering with Syria,” Shoigu added in the Monday morning declaration.
He explained the Stavka’s rationale:
“We are convinced that the implementation of these measures will cool hotheads and prevent ill-considered actions threatening our servicemen. Otherwise we will have to respond in line with the current situation.”
Shoigu’s references to “hotheads” and “ill-consiodered actions” were not only meant for foreign military, but also for those lobbying President Putin in favour of Israel, Turkey and the US.
Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman and the principal lobbyist on Putin’s staff for Turkey, tried to dilute the meaning of the new measures.
At 13:27 Peskov broadcast on the state news agency Tass:
“Russia’s actions aimed at ensuring security for its troops are necessary. This is why in this case, Russia is guided solely by these interests, these actions are not directed against third countries, they are meant to protect our own troops.”
Within minutes, the Kremlin posted a record of a telephone conversation between Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This was the first contact reported by the Kremlin with the Syrian president over the week since Putin had negotiated an agreement in Sochi with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for Turkish occupation of Idlib governorate; the text of their pact was leaked by Turkish media. For details, read this.
Syrian Government officials have refused to comment on the Putin-Erdogan agreement.
claimed “the Russian president did not answer Assad’s phone calls…Assad tried to reach him and Putin didn’t answer.”
The Kremlin has said the Israeli claim has “nothing to do with the reality.”
In the Kremlin communiqué of Monday afternoon, Assad initiated the telephone conversation. The official record claims Putin “informed his Syrian counterpart about his decision to introduce additional measures in order to ensure the security of Russian military personnel in Syria and to improve Syria’s air defence system, including by handing over a modern S-300 missile system.”
Assad asked Putin to clarify what the Idlib agreement with Erdogan means. The Kremlin record says:
“The two presidents noted their readiness for further joint efforts to achieve a long-term peace in Syria, and restore its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, specifically, in view of the outcome of the trilateral meeting of the heads of state, guarantors of the Astana process, in Teheran and the recent Russian-Turkish summit in Sochi.”
The Kremlin record of Assad’s call was marked 13:30. Five hours later at 18:15, the Kremlin reported a telephone-call between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This was the second conversation between the two men in the Kremlin’s public record following the destruction of the Russian Il-20 aircraft on the evening of September 17. The first of their conversations occurred on the day after the air attack. Netanyahu conveyed “condolences” and “promised to provide detailed information on the activities of the Israeli Air Force over Syrian territory on that day, which will be delivered soon to Moscow by the Israeli Air Force commander.”
Putin was recorded as saying:
“Russian-Israeli agreements on preventing dangerous incidents had not been observed either, and that resulted in the Russian aircraft coming under Syrian air defence fire. The Russian President called on the Israeli side to prevent such incidents in the future.”
With the Israeli prime minister Putin ignored the Stavka’s detailed assessment of that morning, although Putin claimed elsewhere during the day that the briefing had been “fully coordinated with me”. Major General Igor Konashenkov had accused the Israelis of spoofing Syrian air defences and creating an ambush for the Russian aircraft. For details of Konashenkov’s first briefing, read this and watch the presentation.
Konashenkov held a second briefing on Sunday morning, September 23. Russian military correspondents cannot remember a Sunday briefing at the Defence Ministry before. Asked if the timing was aimed at Israel where Sunday is a working day, a Moscow source responds:
“I believe Sunday was [chosen by Shoigu] for Putin because the [Defence Ministry] did not want Kremlin to undermine the message or dilute it. They were telling Kremlin – we have done what you asked but they are killing us now and how low do you want to go. I don’t think [the briefing was] directed at Israel at all.”
Watch as it was broadcast on the Sunday evening national television news by Rossiya-24.
“objective data says that the actions of Israeli pilots, which led to the death of 15 Russian military personnel, point to either lack of professionalism or criminal negligence. This is why we believe that the Russian Il-20 aircraft tragedy is solely the fault of the Israeli Air Force and those who made decisions concerning such actions.”
Konashenkov also charged the Israeli military command with lying to the Russian operational command at Khmeimim in identifying in advance their target areas; lying about their manoeuvres around the Il-20 as it began its approach for landing at Khmeimim; lying about their attack aircraft positions off Latakia when the Il-20 was hit; and lying about the Israeli reponse after they had been notified the Russian aircraft was “in distress”.
Konashenkov revealed that the captain of the Russian aircraft was in communication with ground control for four minutes after his plane was struck and before it crashed into the sea. Konashenkov also said the Israeli attackers remained over the crash scene for eleven minutes before they returned to their base.
The day after the second briefing, yesterday morning, the Defence Minister announced the new Russian war policy in the Middle East. He was followed in the afternoon by a fresh briefing, the third by Konashenkov, with new radar tracking evidence showing exactly how the Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers had ambushed the Russian reconnaissance aircraft by drawing Syrian S-200 missile defences away from their initial lock on the Israeli targets.
The Russian radar images, Konashenkov said, “clearly showed the direction of the flight of the S-200 missile launched by the Syrian air defense system, as well as the locations of the Russian and Israeli aircraft. It is quite clear that the missile was targeting the Israeli jet.”
“Today’s data does not just suggest but prove that the blame for the tragic [downing] of the Russian Il-20 airplane lies entirely with the Israeli Air Force. [Israel’s] claims about its alleged non-involvement in this tragedy that claimed lives of 15 Russian servicemen are false.”
Putin’s conversation with Netanyahu in the early evening followed Konashenkov; the Kremlin communiqué was posted at 18:15. “Russia proceeds from the premise”, Putin reportedly qualified Konashenkov, “that the actions of the Israeli Air Force were the main [sic] cause of the tragedy.”
Putin then undercut Shoigu’s policy by telling the Israeli:
“Russia’s decisions to bolster the combat capabilities of Syrian air defences are appropriate [sic] at this juncture and primarily [sic] intended to thwart any potential threat to the lives of the Russian military service members fulfilling the tasks of combatting international terrorism.”