It seems that fears earlier in the week that Russia might sell to Syria an advanced air-defense system have been shot down for now — at least for new purchases. But will Moscow honor a possible prior contract?
On Wednesday, reports surfaced that Russia would sell the advanced S-300 air-defense system to Syria.
“There are concerns that this might happen,” noted a United States official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the New York Times earlier this week. The same piece went on to report that "a western intelligence service has also warned that the Russians may soon send S-300 air defense batteries to Syria, said another American official who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports."
The Wall St. Journal, who originally broke the story, noted:
"According to the information the Israelis provided in recent days, Syria has been making payments on a 2010 agreement with Moscow to buy four batteries for $900 million. They cite financial transactions from the Syrian government, including one made this year through Russia's foreign-development bank, known as the VEB.
The package includes six launchers and 144 operational missiles, each with a range of 125 miles, according to the information the Israelis provided. The first shipment could come over the next three months, according to the Israelis' information, and be concluded by the end of the year. Russia is also expected to send two instruction teams to train Syria's military in operating the missile system, the Israelis say."
Such a development would come at a critical time. Russia and United States recently announced they will hold a peace conference on Syria at the end of the month.
Reports yesterday said that Israel had requested that Russia hold off selling the S-300 system to Damascus.
"We have raised objections to this (sale) with the Russians, and the Americans have too," an Israeli official explained yesterday.
Today, a new twist to the story unfolded.
According to the Washington Post, "Russia’s foreign minister denied Friday that Moscow intends to sign any new contracts to sell surface-to-air missiles to Syria, although he said old contracts are being honored."
“Russia does not plan to sell” new systems to Syria, Foreign Minister Lavrov explained at a press conference in Warsaw. “Russia has sold long ago and delivered hardware, which are air defense systems, under earlier contracts.”
The real question, do the old contracts include any new undelivered S-300 systems?
According to the Post, when questioned in particular about the S-300, his reply was not clear if the "earlier contracts" were for the S-300 or something else.
Lavarov explained Moscow had contracted for a system that allowed Syria “to protect itself from air strikes.”
The Diplomat has reached out to the Russian Foreign Ministry for further comment.
Please see below some interesting video regarding the S-300 system: