Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Russian-Israeli Dispute Erupts over Delivery of S-300 System to Syria

Russian-Israeli Dispute Erupts over Delivery of S-300 System to Syria

Saturday, 21 April, 2018 - 05:15
Russia plans to go ahead with arming Syria with the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. (Getty Images)
Moscow, Tel Aviv – Raed Jaber and Nazir Majali
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that his country intended to provide Syria with the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems.

He said that the US, British and French strikes against Syria last week lifted “moral obligations” that were deterring Moscow from going through with the deal.

“Now, we have no moral obligations. We had the moral obligations, we had promised not to do it some 10 years ago, I think, upon the request of our known partners,” he said according to RIA.

He added that Moscow had respected the Western claim that supplying Syria with such arms would destabilize the region, even though the system plays a defensive role.

“After the recent attack however, we see no reason to commit to those pledges,” said the minister.

It appears that the delivery of the system is now only awaiting the signal from Russia President Vladimir Putin, in a move that will anger Israel.

An Israeli official had previously threatened to strike the S-300 system if they are deployed in Syria.

The delivery of the system will be a precedent because it will threaten the balance of regional powers.

Russia’s statements on Friday can therefore be interpreted as political and military messages to not only the United States, but Israel as well. Moscow has long preserved a delicate balance with Tel Aviv, while also maintaining ties with its rivals, Tehran and Damascus.

Former head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate Amos Yadlin had confirmed that Russia will soon deploy the system in Syria.

“A plan has been set in place to deal with this threat. We will return to square one after eliminating this threat, which is exactly what we intend to do.”

The delivery of the S-300 system will not be a long process because the new batteries for these missile had already been sent to Syria in October 2016. This week’s announcement on the system only entails their redeployment at vital Syrian locations, such as airports, instead of their current positions near the Hmeimem and Tartus Russian bases.

Moscow had supplied Syria with the S-300 system in 2016 to counter “Washington’s mounting threats to carry out military operations against Syrian positions.”

The US, meanwhile, is also worried about the new system, not only due to its concern over its ally, Israel, but because it is aware that the S-300 can be merged with the S-400 system.

The merger will form a strong defense against any attack, stated Russian Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov.

Moreover, the US concern can also be traced to who controls the S-300 system in Syria. Having the Russians control the system is one thing, but having the regime control it is another.

Regardless of the discrepancy in estimates over the number of rockets that were intercepted, the truth remains that the Syrian defenses managed to mobilize to confront an attack. This alone is a cause for concern and supplying Damascus with the S-300 will be an even greater concern.

It becomes clear now why the Russia chose this week, in wake of the strike, to announce that it intends to deliver the new missile system to Syria. It was only waiting for the right time to do so and the Western strike was the excuse it needed.

Editor Picks