There are some alliances around the world that are incredibly uncomfortable. Russia and Cuba, Russia and Afghanistan, and now, Russia and Iran. Russia seems to be the main them here…coincidence? Hardly. This isn’t to say that Russia or its people are the boogeyman, but I think they are a major player that we really aren’t considering in this global game of chess. Headlines across all major news publications for the last few days have read something to the effect of “Russia lifts ban on delivery of missiles to Iran.” Troubling, yes?
Well, this troublesome fact is reality. According to Vladimir Isachenkov, the Washington Post’s Moscow correspondent, “President Vladimir Putin on Monday sanctioned the delivery of a highly capable Russian air defense missile system to Iran.” Ischenkov indicated that this deal has been eight years in the making. It is only now that talks with Tehran are finally showing signs of success that the deal can move forward, as the UN Sanctions have been lifted. The delivery is expected within the year. Clearly, if you’re willing to play nice, you get weapons.
But these aren’t just any weapons. Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said that “The S-300 is exclusively a defensive weapon, which can’t serve offensive purposes and will not jeopardize the security of any country, including, of course, Israel.” On the surface, one might think that this is a kind gesture with no repercussions. After all, Mr. Lavrov went on to say that “It was done in the spirit of good will in order to encourage progress in the talks.” That sounds like a good enough reason. According to the BBC, through the Iranian media, “Tehran welcomed the move as a step towards ‘establishing stability and security in the region,’ the country’s Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said.” But Israel, and even the Obama administration aren’t having any of it.
Of course, Israel’s concerns are far more serious than the administrations. In a press conference on April 13, Spokesperson Marie Harf for the State Department, simply stated: “We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this, but we’ve worked very closely with the Russians on the P5+1 negotiations.” Other than that, it is hard to gauge how seriously the State and Defense Departments are taking this deal, but history would indicate that consideration is as far as this will go.
Regardless of the United States’ concerns, those at the Washington Post believe that Russia is using this as a ploy to get more attention on the world stage. The delicate nuclear talks may be the bargaining chip the Russian government needed to make its arguments regarding their activity in the Ukraine.
Israel, on the other hand, is probably at DEFCON 1 by now. These weapons make any attempt at preemptive defense suicidal. Before, the Israeli military would likely have gotten by with attacking in response to a direct threat, but this deal changes the game. Now the free world is at a crossroads where Israel may really need the help that it can’t seem to get.
Joel Pollack at Breitbart writes that
Putin knows full well that he is triggering an Israeli countdown–and he has been happy to do so in the past. From his point of view, it makes little difference whether Iran or Syria actually use the weapons he is selling them, so long as their money is good and the two regimes remain somewhat dependent on Russian protection.
It appears that Putin couldn’t care less what the countries around him are doing as long as the money keeps funneling into the Kremlin. That’s predictable enough given the current oil economy that’s been strangling the Russian economy. This may be helpful for Russia, but the threat of all-out nuclear war ought to be higher up on Putin’s list. A Middle East collapse would boost oil sales, but to think that the conflict would stay contained in the Middle East is absurd. Russia would feel it too, and not in a good way.
To conclude, Putin and the Kremlin have raised tensions to a new level that has moved this war from a possibility to an oncoming reality- a reality that may be here by the end of the year.