Russia, Syria, Head Toward Missile Deal: Response to U.S. In Poland, Czech Republic, Israel

Russia could follow through with plans to place air defense systems in Syria as a response to Israel’s hosting of an advanced U.S. radar station, sources say.
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Russia pledged to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this month that it wouldn’t site its S-300 air defense missile systems in volatile regions unless it was to restore strategic balances. But Russian officials now say a new American FBX-T anti-missile radar system in Israel is a balance-breaker, the Israeli Web site reported, citing unnamed sources.

Syria could also host Iskander-E missiles to be deployed initially around its Mediterranean ports where Moscow is building naval bases, the Web site said.

DEBKAfile’s sources said the Kremlin regards the new U.S. radar system, installed recently in Israel’s Negev desert, to be an important part of the U.S. missile shield being deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic despite Russia’s strenuous objections.

Russia, however, could decide against handing control of the systems to the Syrians, instead preferring to maintain control of them itself, sources said.

–From UPI

The Russian-Syrian discussions in progress in both their capitals cover the disposition of air defense S-300PMU-2 and Iskander-E missiles – to be deployed initially around Syria’s Mediterranean ports where Moscow is building naval bases.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that these two high-powered items have not been excluded from the big Russian-Syrian arms deal under discussion, despite appeals from Washington and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, who made a special trip to Moscow for this purpose earlier this month.

As soon as he flew home, the foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow maintained ambiguously on Oct. 9 that Russia would not supply air defense systems to “volatile regions.” He said such decisions are based on regional security issues and “the need to maintain a balance of forces” in the region.

This was taken to mean that if weapons delivered to Israel were seen by Moscow as upsetting “the balance of forces,” Moscow would think again about withholding the S-300 and Iskander-E missiles.

Our Moscow sources disclose that the Russians now view the supply of the advanced American FBX-T anti-missile radar system to Israel in September and its deployment in the Negev base of Nevatim as a balance-breaker.

In the broader context of its contest with Washington, the Kremlin regards the US radar system installed in the Negev to be an integral part of the US missile shield deployed in the face of Russian protests in Poland and the Czech Republic. Moscow has already indicated it may hit back by moving nuclear-armed Iskander-E missiles to the Baltic opposite the US batteries deployed in East Europe.

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