Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu has said the recent Russian military buildup in Syria is “defensive in nature” and aimed at supporting Russian obligations to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Netanyahu ex-adviser said Israel worrythat Russia’s reinforcement of Assad in the conflict, now in its fifth year, could effectively create an axis between its long-standing enemies, Hezbollah and Iran, and Moscow.
To date, Russian Federationhas over 25 fighter and attack aircraft, 15 helicopters, nine tanks, three surface-to-air missile systems and at least 500 personnel on the ground in Syria, an US official told.
“We know that the Syrian army and Syria as a whole are in such a state that they have no time for a second front”.
Both sides agreed that they share common interests of ensuring stability in the Middle East, while Netanyahu praised the mutual respect and openness of the dialogue with Moscow.
“In these circumstances, I felt it was very important to come here to explain our position and to do everything to avoid any misunderstanding between you and our forces in the region”, Mr Netanyahu said.
He said: “All Russian policy in Syria is very clearly directed at overcoming globalisolation because of Ukraine“.”We continue to believe that anything that’s done in support of the Assad regime, particularly militarily, is counter-productive and risks worsening an already bad situation”.
Russia is considering a limited operation “that confirms the seriousness of Russia’s intentions”.
While Putin made it clear that Russia’s “main goal is to defend the Syrian state”, he also expressed a cordial greeting to Netanyahu.
Netanyahu is accompanied by his army and intelligence chiefs in a rare step for an overseas visit, underlining its strategic importance.
On Friday, the USA also announced that Washington and Moscow would hold direct talks about Syria, a signal that the rivals could be seeking some compromise in their differing approaches to the country’s civil war.
Israel’s not alone in its concerns about increased Russian military force in Syria. Israel worries that top-of-the-line Russian military hardware being deployed in Syria could end up in Hezbollah’s arsenal.
Russiaand Iran have staunchly supported Assad since the uprising began in Syria in early 2011.