Vladimir Putin's Response to Syria Shooting Down a Russian Aircraft Will Surprise You

Russian Air Force Ilyushin II-20 by Kirill Naumenko, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0/Original


Last evening, Damascus time, a Russian IL-20 Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) aircraft carrying 14 (or maybe 15, numbers vary in the reporting) Russian aircrew disappeared from radar over the Eastern Mediterranean. Russia and Syrian regime propaganda outlets tried to blame Israel, or maybe France, but it soon became clear that the culprit was Syrian air defense missile units tossing away that nasty little IFF device and engaging targets under “if it flies, it dies” rules of engagement.


There was the usual Russian bluster:

Followed by sniveling that the Israelis weren’t playing fair:


Get this. It is Israeli duplicity (and you know how THOSE people are, amirite?) not blinding incompetence by Syrian air defense forces that is to blame. This is how Israel described it:


In my post last night I noted that this put Putin in a rather awkward position. After an Su-24 strike aircraft was shot down by a Turkish F-16 in November 2015, the Russians screamed and did nothing. After the US bombed the snot out of a Russian mercenary force, Russia went silent. There were initial calls for vengeance on Israel but the sad fact, well, sad from the Russian point of view, is that a) the Russian air force is markedly inferior to the Israeli air force in equipment, training, tactics, combat experience, leadership, logistics and ground support operations and b) if Russia does attempt to retaliate they will undoubtedly suffer a bloody nose that will further degrade their credibility. If the Russians admit that the Syrians did it, it doesn’t make either Russia or Syria look all that competent.


The sniveling about Israeli tactics tried to thread the needle. It gave a plausible reason why Assad’s gunners brought down a Russian intelligence aircraft and at the same time blamed Israel. But now it seems like that enough facts have come to light that even the Russians can’t lie about it. This is from Russian state-controlled outlet CNN Sputnik:

Vladimir Putin has addressed the downing of a Russian IL-20 by a Syrian surface-to-air missile on Monday evening. Earlier Moscow blamed Israeli jets for having provoked the tragic accident.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences over the death of the crew of the aircraft Il-20 downed in Syria.

“When people die, especially in such tragic circumstances, it is always a tragedy, a tragedy for us all, for the whole country and for the families of our dead friends. In this connection, I certainly offer my condolences to the relatives of those who got killed in the downing,’ Putin said at a press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Moscow.

Putin stated that the Russian side is set to thoroughly investigate the case, while stressing that “the Israeli jet didn’t down our aircraft.”

“Most certainly, we have to sort the case out most seriously. And our attitude to the tragedy is outlined in the Russian Defense Ministry’s statement,” he noted, adding he personally approved it.

“Russia’s retaliatory measures with regard to the Il-20 downing will be directed primarily at stepping up security of Russian military officers in Syria, our military facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said. “These will be the steps everyone will notice,” he stressed.

“When it comes to comparing the Il-20 crash with other incidents, namely an attack on a Russian plane, when a Russian plane was downed by a Turkish military jet, this is still a different situation,” Putin noted, adding that the latest incident looks like “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”


This is a truly humiliating climb down for the Russian defense ministry, its diplomatic corps, and its on-line Twitter goons. It leaves Assad’s apologists hanging out to dry. It will be interesting to see what these “stepped up security” measures look like. Some sources are saying this will speed the delivery of the more advanced S-400 SAM to Syria. But how giving Syria a bigger missile to fling about indiscriminately helps matter is more than a little unclear.

BREAKING. Russian Electronic Warfare Aircraft Is Shotdown Over the Eastern Mediterranean…By Syria

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