Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kremlin Bans Sale of S-300 Missile Systems to Iran

Via BBC (Sept 22, 2010) -

The Kremlin has formally banned the sale of S-300 air defence missile systems to Iran three months after new UN sanctions. A decree was issued by President Dmitry Medvedev prohibiting the sale, which had been in the pipeline for years.

Earlier, Gen Nikolai Makarov, head of Russia's general staff, confirmed that the missiles were "definitely" subject to the sanctions introduced in June. At that time, Russia's foreign minister said the S-300 deal was not affected.


Mr Medvedev's decree, published on Kremlin website, lists the S-300 among military items which must not be exported to Iran under the fourth round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on Iran over its nuclear programme.

"The decision has been taken not to supply S-300 [systems] to Iran," Gen Makarov said at Ramenskoye airport outside Moscow, shortly before the decree was published.

"They are definitely subject to sanctions."

Asked if Russia had torn up its contract with Iran, he replied: "We'll see. That will depend on how Iran behaves."

Back in June Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the new sanctions would not affect the S-300 contract. However, shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was quoted by French media as saying the sale had been suspended.


Why the quasi-flip on the S-300 issue?

A senior [U.S.] administration official, speaking to The Cable on background basis, said Moscow's refusal to sell the S-300 air defense system and various other advanced weaponries was a significant decision, because imposing sanctions on Iran is more costly for Russia than for the United States.

"They've made that very clear to us for the last two years that this is not a symmetrical transaction for them and they don't share the same threat assessment as us vis-a-vis Iran," the official said. "The decision was a bold one that acknowledges how important it is to us and how important Medvedev takes this reset with President Obama."

The officials explained that the Obama administration made clear to Medvedev and other Russian officials that the sale of the S-300 to Iran was a red line that couldn't be crossed, and one that was raised in every high-level meeting between the two countries. Israeli officials did the same in meetings with their Russian counterparts.


As for why the Russians finally decided to scuttle the arms deal after years of lobbying by Washington, the official speculated that Moscow now has something it needs -- and that it finally has faith that the U.S. is willing to help. Russia is jockeying for as much U.S. support as possible for their upcoming bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), and Moscow is planning to finalize its bid this year.


Experts, however, are divided on exactly what the Russian announcement means about the success of the reset policy, considering that Russia continues to aid Iran in other ways and remains at odds with the West about their occupation of Georgia.

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