Russia and Israel may be on a collision course in Syria

Syrian air defenses react to Israeli missiles south-of Damascus on July 20, 2020. STR/AFP via Getty ImagesRecent Russian statements have raised questions about Moscow's reaction to Israeli strikes on Syria.A shift could cause problems for the US as the relationship between Israel and Russia can be fragile and complex.Check out more stories from Insider's business page.A Russian admiral's recent statements and an anonymous Russian source suggest that Russia may be changing its policy regarding Israeli strikes against Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria.This shift could cause problems for the United States as the relationship between Israel and Russia is complex and fragile.Israel launched an attack in Syria on July 19th against Hezbollah, Iranian-affiliated targets and Hezbollah.Rear Adm. Vadim Klit, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties, claimed that seven of the eight Israeli missiles fired at Aleppo by the Russian missile-defense system brought down. Kulit claimed that Israel had launched four more missiles near Homs a few days later. He said all of them were intercepted.Israel didn't comment on the attack but ensured that images showing significant damage to a Syrian location were widely shared on social media.Russian and Syrian soldiers at Damascus checkpoint, March 2, 2018, Omar Sanadiki/ReutersKulit's claims were questioned by observers who questioned their authenticity. Asharq Al-Aswat (London-based Arabic news outlet), reported that a Russian source claimed that Moscow received the message from Washington regarding Israel's increased activity in Syria following the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.However, there have been no indications that the United States is worried about Israel's military activities and that this spectacular victory against Israeli missiles wasn't achieved.These would both be game-changers and it is difficult to believe there wouldn't be any chatter in Israel and the United States about them if they were true. However, if Russia's claims are exaggerated what purpose does this statement serve?Continue the storyKulit clearly did not speak out of turn. There have been no reports that he was disciplined or reprimanded. Russian leaders have not publicly rebuked Kulit's statements or supported them, which supports the notion that these claims were made for strategic purposes.They occur at a time when there is significant change. Donald Trump has been replaced by Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu has been replaced by Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and Foreign Minister Yair Lepid.This means that Putin has moved away from his interlocutors, who depended heavily on their personal relationships with him and operate with a very self-centered style in diplomacy. He now works with newcomers, who he is less familiar and are more interested in national interests.A US soldier standing next to an M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, northeastern Syria. December 16, 2020. US Army Reserve/Spc. Tarako BraswellPutin is likely to test the resolve and inexperience of Israeli leaders. He also wants to see how Biden with his more conciliatory approach towards Moscow than Trump will deal with the delicate balance in Syria.This balance is based on an agreement the Trump administration made with Russia in 2017. Israel was very dissatisfied by it.It allowed Iranian-backed militias (including Hezbollah) to continue operating in a safe zone in southern Syria. While the ceasefire that was established in the area was intended to aid both the US and Russia in fighting ISIS in the region was a good thing, Israel was more concerned about the militias.The Trump administration clarified that Israel is free to pursue its goals, despite Israeli complaints. In the hopes of avoiding Russian casualties, Israel established a line of communication with Russia. This was used by Israel to inform Moscow about impending attacks.While there have been many incidents that could threaten to change the status quo over the years, diplomatic efforts between Israel and Russia were able to diffuse tensions whenever they occurred. There are reports now that communication between Russia and Israel has stopped.Russian forces patrolling near Qamishli, northern Syria. October 24, 2019. Baderkhan Ahmad / Associated PressNetanyahu was always on the lookout to undermine and discredit the new Israeli government. His Likud party said that "We maintained freedom to act in Syria because of Netanyahu's close relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin." These reports indicate that the Netanyahu government lost another strategic asset.Russia is not happy with Israel's repeated attacks on Syria, as Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, stated in January. He stated that Israel would be forced to respond to "threats to Israeli security emanating from Syria" and "we have repeatedly told our Israeli colleagues: "Please give us information if you see such threats."Over the years, Israel has repeatedly stated that they do not accept this.It is possible that there may be more to this than just feeling the new US and Israeli governments working here.Hezbollah's position in Lebanon has become more volatile and controversial due to political turmoil and economic collapse. Israel, however, continues to be agitated by its military capabilities.The possibility of Israel-Lebanon clashes increasing as the situation in Lebanon worsens. This is especially true given the negative attention Hezbollah has received domestically.Russia could also manage a shift if the United States finds a way to reenter the Iran nuclear agreement.Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the Kremlin, Moscow, October 20, 2015. Kremlin/ReutersRussia, Iran and Turkey reiterated their desire for a unified, independent Syria in early July.Russia hopes to use this opportunity to show its diplomatic muscle on the international stage. However, aside from statements like this one and cooperation between Russia, Turkey and Syria in maintaining each country’s spheres of influence in Syria, the four-year-old process these countries began has not shown any promise to solve the Syrian conflict.Russia could be seeking a way forward in these changing circumstances.The UAE and other Arab states are actively exploring ways to bring Syria back into the fold. Russia would love to see this happen as it would have more direct influence over the region through Damascus.It's not an easy process. The Arab states are unwilling to take on the responsibility of rebuilding Syria. Russia cannot. This leaves the country conflicted, divided, and unresolved.Moscow has reaffirmed its support and value for the tattered Assad government by rebuking Israel. The regional concerns make it important to ask Russia if they really plan to take a stronger stand against Israeli actions in Syria.If Russia decides to protect Syrian airspace more forcefully, the Biden administration will need to consider how to proceed. It would have to find a way for Israel to respect Syrian airspace and ensure Israel is safe from attack. This would require cooperation between the United States and Moscow.Washington has remained silent so far. It can continue to make such statements if they are not Russian posturing. It will need to broker a deal if it is not. This will prevent Israeli tensions with Russia from escalating and creating a new powder keg region-wide.Business Insider has the original article.