One of the reasons why Russia continues to support the Syrian government is the strategic need to keep a forward base in the Middle East.
Moscow has withdrawn some personnel from the Russian naval base in Tartus, on Syria’s west coast, but it still has a massive presence in the country.
But Russia does not count only on its Syria-based sensors. Many others, located on its soil, can pick up the slightest military movement in Israel and other US allies.
On 3 September, these Russian sensors detected the launch of the Sparrow target missile from an Israeli air force F-15 over the Mediterranean. The missile was launched from west to east to simulate the launch of a ballistic missile into Israel.
The test of the Rafael Sparrow was performed in co-operation with the US Missile Defence Agency.
Now it is clear that not only the Green Pine radars that form part of the Israeli Arrow ballistic missiles interceptor followed the launch as part of the test, but also other radars, far away in Russia.
The first indication came when moments after the test Moscow announced a “ballistic missile trajectory over the Mediterranean”.
Moscow is on very high alert because of a possible US attack on Syrian military installations.
Normally, Israel would not have announced the routine test, but the Russians left it with no option, so minutes after the Russian “ballistic missile warning”, the Israeli ministry of defence hurriedly released a short statement confirming the test.
The Russians’ reaction proves that they are capable of detecting every aerial movement in the area, even when some of their sensors in Syria are not functioning at full capacity – and that they are very nervous.
Their radars in the Middle East may be working with limited capability but the long-range ones at Russia’s intelligence bases are all directed towards the Middle East at the moment. The ballistic missile warning is a strong indication of the mounting tension in the region.