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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel as the Promised Land

Last week there was an incident in the Gaza strip: Two Palestinian gunmen under the cover of darkness attempted to penetrate the perimeter defenses of an Israeli settlement to plant a bomb. The gunmen's movements were detected by the Israeli military, the Palestinians were engaged in a firefight, pinned down and one of them wounded. Then an Israeli attack helicopter was called in and the gunmen were killed by an air strike. There were no Israeli casualties.

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This more or less routine incident illustrates the profound difference in capabilities that separates not only Palestine and Israeli, but also modern and outmoded armies; the Russian military being an example of the latter.

The true situation is recognized in Moscow and this explains why the Russian military and security chiefs so envy their Israeli counterparts.

During the Cold War, when Russian officers were directly engaged in combat with the Israelis as jet fighter pilots and military advisers to the Egyptian and Syrian military and antiaircraft missile battery crews, they sometimes got killed or wounded in action.

Then the respect our men had for the Israeli foe was always high. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fascination with the Israelis increased within the Moscow military and intelligence community. In the last decade, Russia, like Israel, has faced Islamist-connected opponents and experienced a serious terrorist threat. A perceived common enemy is a good basis to build friendship, but what positively fascinates our chiefs about Israel is their dislike of the U.S. military system.

The U.S. military, since the 1970s, has been all-volunteer, but most of our generals still believe firmly in a conscript army. We will never have a U.S. defense budget to finance a decent all-volunteer force, our chiefs argue. The Israeli military is modern, has all the latest high-tech gadgets and -- what's most important for our generals -- is all-conscript. Boys serve three years, girls eighteen months. Reservists regularly serve one month per year. There are virtually no draft dodgers, the population truly supports its military, former generals dominate the government and parliament. The Israeli defense budget is today some 10 percent of GDP.

Surely Israel is the promised land of hope and glory for our battered military: With all their heart our generals want three-year conscript service, the same ratio of GDP to defense spending and, most of all, the privileged position Israeli generals have in their militarized society.

General Vladimir Vasilyev is a high-ranking member of United Russia and chief of the Duma Security Committee. In 2002, he was deputy interior minister and chief of the provisional operational staff during the Dubrovka theater hostage siege. After the Beslan school attack, Vasilyev visited Israel with a Russian security delegation and publicly heaped praise on Israel for having what we do not: "A sober society with a clear national idea."

The way Palestinian gunmen in Gaza were dealt with last week is out of the reach of our military. Our troops do not have movement detectors or modern night-vision equipment to detect Chechen rebels. We do not have night attack helicopters and cannot use superior firepower to destroy enemy gunmen close to our own positions without a high risk of inflicting "friendly fire" casualties. By nightfall most Russian officers in Chechnya are drunk.

In the North Caucasus conflict zone the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry forces stay barricaded inside their garrisons and strong-points at night. In June, several hundred rebels occupied Ingushetia for one night, slaughtering local pro-Moscow police and security personnel, while thousands of heavily armed Russian soldiers stayed in their bases, venturing out in force only in daylight, when the rebels had melted away.

After Beslan, Russia and Israel exchanged security delegations. The idea of using Israeli know-how in anti-terrorist operations is more popular today in Moscow than ever before. The possibility of purchasing Israeli-made unmanned surveillance drones and other equipment to use against the Chechen rebels has been discussed.

Our military and security chiefs believe that if they had modern precision night weapons, and men trained and motivated as highly as the Israelis, then the situation in Chechnya would be very different.

Although the Israelis already have it all, they are actually further away from victory or an end to the conflict than we are in Chechnya.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst based in Moscow.