After Russian president Vladimir Putin proved he calls the shots in an international crisis like the one in Syria, the fact that the Israeli and American military attachés were summoned to the Russian defence ministry last week to hear a Russian protest seemed almost “normal”.
The two attaches were asked in an unprecedented way to co-ordinate with Moscow on any future missile testing in the Middle East.
Last Tuesday, Russian radar detected the launch of a Sparrow target missile from an Israeli air force (IAF) F-15 over the Mediterranean.
The missile was launched from west to east to simulate a launch of a ballistic missile towards Israel. This was part of the development process of the Arrow-3 ballistic missile interceptor. The test of the Rafael Sparrow was performed in co-operation with the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
The Russians were furious, and the Russian deputy defence minister summoned the Israeli and US military attachés and expressed Moscow’s anger.
According to the Russian press the deputy defence minister demanded that Israel and the US refrain from military actions or exercises that “could have a negative effect on security in the region and the world”.
Israel is test launching different types of missile over the Mediterranean, and uses the IAF’s Palmachim base as its main missile test facility.
The Arrow ballistic missile interceptor is test-launched from this base. The Offeq spy satellites are also launched from this base by the Shavit launcher, with trajectories over the Mediterranean.
Israel has made clear that the Russian demand is unacceptable, and it intends to continue firing test missiles over the Mediterranean.
“The Russian demand is a bad joke. We do not intend to ask for permission for any test we intend to perform,” a senior Israeli defence source said.
Russian detection radars will continue to look at the Middle East – and without any doubt pick up blips from time to time.