Israel’s Role in the New Cold War

By Gideon

The most recent missile attack by Great Britain, France, and the United States on Syria, a close Russian ally, is the latest chapter in the New Cold War that is developing between NATO countries, and Russia and its allies. The missile attack followed the March 2018 expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US and other NATO countries, and the expulsion of Western diplomats by Russia in retaliation. This article is about the role that Israel will play in an all-out New Cold War. It follows the article  A Stolen Russian fighter Jet, America, Israel, and a Cold War , which told the story of how Israel  helped American pilots  to unlock the secrets of the Russian made MiG-21 fighter jet during the Vietnam war.

Israel will play a unique role in this developing Cold War for the following reasons:

Israel is equipped with the latest US made weapon systems. Few countries in the world, if any,  have so much of the most advanced   American-made military technology as Israel. Every time Israeli fighter jets attack Syrian and Iranian targets, and successfully escape the Russian made missile defense systems, America scores a technological superiority point.

Israel is not a NATO member. It maintains an independent foreign and military policies. A war between Israel and another country does not automatically drag NATO into a war. In the previous cold war, the Middle East conflict was one of the hottest battle grounds between Russian and American allies. The Middle East was a place where America and Russia could clash without getting into an all out war. During the Attrition War that followed the 1967 Six Day War, Russian pilots were engaged directly in air-to-air combat with Israeli pilots. 

However, things can get out of control very quickly: During the 1973 Yom Kippur War (October War), America put its armed forces on the highest alert when Russia signaled that it was about to enter the war to save the Arab armies from a total collapse. If both countries were not careful, a 3rd World War would have taken place without anyone intending to do so. One of Israel’s roles in the New Cold War is to ensure that it doesn’t drag America into an all-out war with Russia.

Through the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israel is America’s proving ground for testing American made military technology against Russian made military systems in real-life combat situations. Israel’s enemies are Russia’s proving ground for testing Russian weapon systems against American made systems. Being used as “a test pilot” for America is not something that Israel enjoys doing, but it is one of the roles that Israel has been playing for decades because of the situation that it is in.

The Israeli sophisticated intelligence community provides NATO countries with information that their intelligence services cannot obtain on their own. One of the most famous espionage stories of the previous Cold War is what the Washington Post in its March 27, 1994 called “The Leak of the Century”. In this case Israel was able to obtain a copy of Nikita Khrushchev, the new general secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R after Joseph Stalin death.

Khrushchev speech was the first official account of Stalin’s crimes against his own people, doubtless providing clues to Russia’s economic and military strength, and the West was desperate to obtain it. Then-CIA director Allen Dulles would later describe acquiring the speech as the outstanding achievement of his career. But he never revealed that Israel had scored the triumph. The Israelis, in turn, never told the Americans how they got the document.

Unlike Turkey, a NATO country that in 2015 shut down a Russian fighter jet which crossed its  border by mistake when flying over Syria on a combat mission, Israel and Russia have an open communication channel to ensure that their air forces do not get entangled in an unintentional battle over Syria. Israel does not shoot down Russian jets when they  cross into Israel. Russia does not interfere with Israel’s attacks against Syrian and Iranian targets.

This smei-secret military communication channel could be used to the advantage of all military units involved in Syria in cases where a human error could lead to an all-out war, in a place were so many armies and paramilitary groups shooting at each other on a daily basis.

There is a large Russian born Jewish community in Israel that travels often to Russia and maintains close relationships with official Russian diplomats and businessmen. This community could become the communication link, if direct communication between NATO and Russia  is limited to militant combative statements.

On one hand Israel is the most loyal American ally and stands side-by-side with America on every issue. On the other hand, Israeli officials keep good relationships with their Russian counterparts in order to use their influence to limit the quantity and quality of Russian-made weapon systems sold to Israel’s enemies in the Middle East.

Israel has tense relations with some of the NATO countries over their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On some occasions, Israel finds itself upsetting NATO countries when it fails to support them against Russia. Israel was very late to voice its dissatisfaction with Russia over the poisoning of the former Russian spy in England. Israel’s hesitation to be vocal about it upset the British government.

Russian leaders understand that Israel is doing what it can to maintain good relations with them, but if it had to choose sides, it will always side with America. Israel could become an acceptable peace broker for both sides if an all out Cold War has erupted.