Putin to ´Post´: Missile deal possible (JERUSALEM POST) By DAVID HOROVITZ KRAKOW, POLAND 01/28/05)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-Top
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an exclusive interview with The
Jerusalem Post on Thursday, refused to rule out his country´s sale of
anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, insisting that such missiles
serve "defensive" purposes only and would not affect the balance of
forces in the region.
Putin was speaking to the Post through a translator at a luncheon in
Krakow hosted by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski.
He was asked first about the direct link he had drawn between Nazism
and modern terrorism in a speech he delivered earlier in the day.
Questioned as to whether he regarded modern terrorism as a threat to
humankind, Putin replied: "Definitely. That has been our direct
experience. Those extremists who represent international terrorism in
our territory in the northern Caucasus, what they want is to
establish a global caliphate. This resembles the Nazis´ aspiration to
global leadership. The same can be said, by the way, of the Communist
The Post then put it to Putin that Israel was extremely concerned by
terrorism, and had specific anxieties regarding planned Russian
missile sales to Syria, a state notorious for its support of terror
groups. Putin responded at length.
"First of all," he said, "we understand and are committed to
maintaining the balance of forces in the region. We understand our
responsibilities. We have not taken a single step to violate that
balance and we will follow that pattern in the future."
Waiting patiently while his translator rendered this into English,
Putin then continued, "Second of all, we won´t bring to the region
weapons that can be used by terrorists or that can be transferred to
terrorists without controls." The Russian president then
repeated, "We have and will always act according to our international
obligations." In that light, he added, the contemplated missile sale
to Syria would not constitute a violation of responsibility because,
he asserted, these are purely "defensive missiles."
"While we´re talking about supplies of weapons to countries in the
region," he said, "such a supply should be understood in the light of
supporting defensive capacities, as in Syria."
Putin added that he was discussing the planned sale along with all
other issues, "with all participants" in what he called "the Middle
East settlement, including frankly and openly with our Israeli
Indeed, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon talked with Putin only last week,
and the two are expected to speak again in the coming days. And it is
understood that Russia´s planned missile sale to Syria is currently
on hold – neither definitively on, nor definitively off, according to
"Our actions, I say again," Putin then reiterated, "have never
violated and will never violate the balance of power in the region."
The Post then pointed out to the Russian president that at the
moment, that balance finds Israel with a vital military advantage.
Putin´s response: "Definitely, today, Israel has all the powers
compared to its neighbors." The Post would have liked to clarify that
rather equivocal response, but Putin indicated that the interview was
Israel, and the US for that matter, have been particularly concerned
by Russian plans to sell SA-18 shoulder-held anti-aircraft missiles
According to Israeli sources, the SA-18 may indeed be described as a
defensive missile, but Israel´s concern is that from Damascus they
will find their way to Hizbullah and then to the West Bank, and come
to constitute a threat to civilian airliners landing at and taking
off from Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Senior Israeli diplomatic officials responded to Putin´s comments by
saying he was resorting to a "traditional" Soviet policy regarding
arms sales – namely, that Moscow was only selling defensive, and not
"The line between defensive and offensive weapons is very thin," one
official said. "With this type of weapon they may feel more confident
to take offensive actions against Israel." Furthermore, the officials
said, if this weapon is delivered to terrorist organizations it
becomes a purely offensive weapon that could be used to shoot down
The officials said that while Jerusalem did not expect that the sale
would be finalized during Syrian President Bashar Assad´s current
trip to Russia, they do expect that Russia will try to go through
with the deal at another time, and try to get around Israeli and US
objections that the missiles could be easily transferred to
terrorists by reconfiguring them and placing them on Armored
Personnel Carriers (APCs).
The officials said that the Russian decision to waive Syria´s $10
billion debts accumulated from previous arms deal is a clear
indication that Russia has long-term plans for future arms deal with
Damascus, and is trying to pave its way back into the Middle East via
Regarding whether mounting the missiles on APCs would remove the
threat of their being transferred to terrorists, one official
said "whatever can be mounted on a vehicle can easily be removed
later." Herb Keinon contributed to this report . (© 1995-2005, The
Jerusalem Post 01/28/05)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY