Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Netanyahu ended their three-hour meeting in Sochi Tuesday, May 14, at loggerheads on Syria. In fact, Putin warned his guest that Israel and its army, the IDF, were heading for war with Syria in which Russia might well be involved – and not just through the advanced S-300 anti-air missiles supplied to the Assad government. The case Netanyahu and Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi put before Putin and Russian foreign intelligence chief, SVR Director Mikhail Fradkov, fell on deaf ears.
They found the Russian leader further infuriated by the docking that day at Israel’s Red Sea port of Eilat of the USS Kearsarge, carrying 1,800 marines and a consignment of 20 V-22 Osprey helicopters which US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had promised to supply to Israel during his April visit.
Putin viewed the stationing of US forces in the Gulf of Aqaba just two hours away the Israeli-Syrian border for repelling Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah aggression against Israel or Jordan – signaled by the Kearsage’s arrival – as an act of bad faith by Washington. On the one hand, they want us to cooperate for an international conference to end the bloodshed in Syria, while on the other, they deploy military forces, he complained to Netanyahu.
The Israeli prime minister countered with a warning that Israel would continue to strike advanced weapons in Syria that were destined for Hizballah. And if President Bashar Assad hit back for Israel’s May 5 bombardment of weapons stores on Mount Qassioun near Damascus, Israel would intensify its bombardments of Syrian military targets and weapons until Assad was left to fight off rebel assaults empty-handed.
Putin rejected this threat as implausible.