On Monday, I posted about the Russian response to a US Navy Super Hornet shooting down a Syrian SU-23 that was attacking anti-ISIS forces supported by the United States.
The initial Russian response was pretty much what you’d expect from a Kremlin that looks back fondly at the Brezhnev era:
Russia’s defense ministry says it will treat U.S.-led coalition planes in Syria, west of the Euphrates River, as targets after the U.S. military shot down a Syrian Air Force jet on Sunday.
Russia’s defense ministry says it is suspending coordination with the United States in Syria over so-called “de-confliction zones” after the Americans downed a Syrian government fighter jet.
This was pretty obviously bullsh** at the time as the Russians simply don’t have the combat power in the theater to make that threat stick, they don’t have the military competence to make it stick if they did have the combat power, and the policy works directly against the interests of their Syrian allies. The lack of a deconfliction hotline is inevitably going to result in more and more Syrian aircraft smoldering on the ground.
In short order, the “treat as targets” went by the board. No, said the Russians, we just mean we will keep track of where your aircraft are. The weakness of the Russian bluster was demonstrated on Tuesday when a USAF F-15E dropped a drone used by an Iranian-sponsored militia group in the exclusion zone around the US SOF camp at al Tanf… which is well west of the Euphrates.
Now the final piece has fallen into place. It was revealed that the deconfliction hotline is still operational:
Russian and US military officials are still using a special hotline to communicate about operations in Syria, a US official said Friday, days after Moscow said it was severing the connection.
Russia on Monday said it would stop using the so-called “deconfliction” line in response to a US pilot shooting down a regime war plane in northern Syria, with Moscow accusing Washington of failing to issue a warning.
But Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, told reporters in a video call that “the deconfliction line is in use.”
“It is in use to make sure that… our air crews and ground forces are safe,” he said.
So, just to recap, of all the threats made by Russia, none of them were actually carried out.