Money talks and bullsh** walks. The same applies to military capability.
Less than a day ago, the Russians threatened to shoot down any US or allied aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in retaliation for a US Navy fighter downing a Syrian strike aircraft after it bombed US-sponsored Syrian troops.
Now the Russian Defense Ministry has clarified their position:
Since June 19, 2017, the Russian Defence Ministry has stopped the cooperation with the American party within the Memorandum on prevention of incidents and providing of flight security during the operations in Syria and demands a thorough investigation of the incident by the US Command with further providing of information on its results and the taken measures.
In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the air space of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets.
Note they say “tracked” as air targets, not “treat U.S.-led coalition planes in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, as targets.” Why is this significant? If Russian air defense systems “treated” allied aircraft as hostile that would entail “painting” them with fire control radar, an international sign of imminent hostilities. “Tracking” merely means allied aircraft will be coded on Russian battle management radar as hostile. They have probably been doing that since Day One.
The overall significance is that the Russians have pulled back from directly challenging allied aircraft over Syria. I suspect the deconfliction channel will open sooner rather than later because it will be fatal to a lot of Assad’s pilots and ground allies if it isn’t.