Russia has retreated from its offer to supply the Syrian government with the”S-300″ air defence system, just days after a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.
The Russian newspaper “Izvestia” on Friday 11 May quoted Vladimir Kogen, an assistant to Putin, who said that Russia was not holding talks with the Syrian government for the supply of the “S-300” advanced missile system, and did not believe it was necessary.
Kogen added, in response to a question about the possibility of providing Syria with the air defence system, that currently “we are not discussing any deliveries of the S-300 … The Syrian Army already has everything it needs”.
Kogen is usually responsible for supervising Russian military aid to other countries. His comments came following a visit by Prime Minister Netanyahu to Moscow the previous Wednesday, which coincided with Russia’s commemoration of its victory in the Second World War.
The development appears to be a result of pressure applied on Putin by Netanyahu to prevent the delivery of the air defense system.
Last April, the Russian newspaper “Kommersant” had reported that Putin was prepared to supply the Syrian government with the “S-300” in the near future, after political issues relating to the matter were resolved. The newspaper had said that the system was planned to be delivered as part of Russia’s technical military assistance, and would be transferred to Syria via military vessels.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavror, however, said that a decision had not yet been taken regarding the matter.
The Syrian government had in 2010 signed an agreement with Russia for the provision of missiles; however, Israel worked at that time to prevent the completion of the sale.
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on 24 April of this year that he did not mind that the air defence system was to be delivered, on the condition that it was not used against Israeli planes.
Lieberman added at the time, in comments to the Israeli newspaper “Yedioth Ahronoth”, that “our interest is that the weaponry to be transferred by Russia to Syria will not be used against us”, threatening that “if they act against us, we will move against them”.
Russia’s current retreat cannot be separated from the military strikes carried out by Israel against Iranian sites near the Golan border in western Rif Dimashq Governorate on Thursday 10 May. These strikes came as a response to rocket strikes launched by Iran’s IRGC into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Discussion of the “S-300” system has arisen again in recent days after the US and its allies (France and the UK) launched limited strikes against military facilities belonging to the Syria government, which took place last week. After the strikes Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said that his country was ready to review all types of military assistance to Damascus, including the “S-300”.