Delivery of long-range anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces “is a stabilizing factor,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, even as Israel denounced the decision.“We won’t cancel this contract,” Ryabkov told reporters today in Moscow. “We understand the concerns and the signals that are being sent to us from different capitals. We see that many of our partners are worried about this, but we have no reasons to reconsider our position.”
The S-300 missiles with a range of 200-300 kilometers (186 miles) are a threat to Israel and can reach aircraft over Ben Gurion airport, Yuval Steinitz, Israeli Minister of International Relations, told reporters today. That makes them “not just defensive weapons, but offensive,” he said, calling the Russian move “terribly wrong.”
The exchanges came hours after the European Union authorized arms sales to the Syrian opposition. While Britain and France, the prime movers behind the decision, said there would be no immediate shipments to rebels, both countries said the move was intended to narrow the options for Assad, who has clung to power during two years of civil war that has cost 80,000 Syrian lives.
Ryabkov accused the EU of “pouring oil on the flames of the conflict.” The Russian minister declined to say what stage the S-300 deliveries have reached, but Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the systems have not yet been shipped. “If, by some misfortune, they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do,” he told reporters today.
What Israel will do is precisely nothing, because those S-300 SAMs will shred the Israeli Air Force, and they damn well know it. Getting rid of them, once they're in place, is going to require a serious military effort on the part of Israel (and most likely the US too.) Since there's no stomach for that in either country, Russia is playing this card to take Israel's air power out of the picture.
That means the Syrian Army can bring in Hezbollah and Iraqi fighters to continue the civil war. Hell, at this point Syria is turning into Vietnam.
Enjoy the show, folks. This one's going to be around for a while.