After Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian military plane on Sept. 17, Moscow blamed Israel, claiming that it had used the Russian plane as a shield to protect its own. Now Russia says it’s supplying Syria with the S-300 air defense system – a more modern, accurate and agile system than the S-200 system Damascus used to down the Russian plane. With better radar capabilities, the S-300 would certainly be a greater threat to Israel’s air operations in Syria, a fact Moscow is fully aware of. Years ago, Russia signed a deal to sell the S-300 to Syria but canceled the agreement in 2013 because of lobbying efforts and threats from Israel.
Understanding the significance of this development requires answering two related questions, the first of which is tactical: How would Israel, which has been attacking Iranian targets in Syria, manage the new challenges posed by the S-300? Military officials note how effective the S-300 is in denying airspace to fourth-generation fighters like