Kirill Govorov (Russia)
Israel’s stomach turned as Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in Washington that Russia, in spite of everything, will deliver «Yakhont” anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria. Major Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth called Moscow’s decision nothing less than a personal slap in the face from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Israeli officials intend to demand an explanation from Russia for this announced plan, and the rhetoric of some Israeli politicians has gone as far as ultimatums and threats, beginning with proposing to blackmail Russia by resuming negotiations to sell military equipment to Georgia (including UAVs). After Georgia’s military aggression in August 2008, the Russian leaders convinced their Israeli colleagues to end their policy of actively promoting the revenge-seeking ambitions of the Georgian president.
Unlike the Caucasian situation, in the Middle East, the Israeli government has, in its short history of existence, managed to engage in violent confrontation with almost all of its neighbors and it not only regularly violates of international law, but it is very irritated when anyone impedes it from doing so. For its part, Russian policy has remained committed to the idea of a balance of power in one of the most volatile regions of the planet. This remains important, as the Israel’s military leadership has not yet turned into an absolute hegemony in the region, backed by its close strategic alliance with the United States.
In this sense, supplying Syria with purely defensive weapons cannot be regarded as a destabilizing factor. Rather, these Russian Yakhonts (meaning «rubies” or «sapphires” in Russian) will prevent Israeli hawks from romping through Syria’s territorial waters.
Igor Korotchenko, editor-and-chief of Russian magazine, National Defense, spoke about the decision by the Russian government to sell Damascus the Yakhont anit-ship missiles, and Israel’s reaction.
“I think this decision is entirely in keeping with Russian national interests,” he said. “Don’t forget that Syria has been our ally in the region since Soviet times. Russian leaders have contact with Damascus at the very highest level – very recently Dmitri Medvedev made a visit to the Syrian capital. All of this creates a good foundation for expanding the format and variety of the military cooperation between the two countries.”
“Regarding the contract for the “Bastion” mobile anti-ship missile system (the supersonic Yakhont missiles are component of this system), this is a purely defensive weapon. The missiles have a range of 300 km. What’s more, it meets all missile technology limits and regulations. So delivering it to any country, including Syria, does not violate the current laws limiting the spread of missile technology.”
“Why then, do Israeli politicians seem to be so afraid and are reacting so nervously to this? The fact is that the Bastion is a weapon against which modern warships – including the latest American designs – have no defense. When a Yakhont missile is fired, it follows an adaptive trajectory taking into account all the nuances – target composition (singular targets or groups), heat or electronic interference, etc., automatically selecting the optimal trajectory to hit a target. No one has such an anti-ship weapon. The kinetic force of the impact plus 200 kg of explosives, which detonates only after the missiles has pierced the hull and reached the center of the warship – all of this simply breaks the ship in two (a large aircraft carrier could be felled by less than five of these missiles).”
“It’s understandable that Israel, which feels like it has monopolized and dominated militarily in the region, does not want to see any gain from its neighbors, even though Syria and Israel are not currently at war. At the same time, they do not currently have any diplomatic ties. And so, Syria has signed a “end user certificate” ensuring that these weapons will not fall into the hands of extremist groups — a worrisome scenario for Israel. Most importantly, terrorists simply wouldn’t be able to use such a weapon, as it is a complex technical system. Syrian personnel will be trained to use it in Russia. This weapon will provide security to Syrian costal areas on the Mediterranean, and thus will not pose any direct threat to Israel. Moreover, the Syrian coast does not even border Israel. As long as Israeli ships do not enter Syrian territorial waters, they should feel totally calm.”
“With regard to Israel’s blackmail of offering to resume arms supplies to Georgia – already a frightening prospect for us – we can go ahead and reconsider our decision to freeze our contract to supply S-300s to Iran. We have our own cards to play. Moscow could hit back in a way that would be totally disadvantageous to Israel. So the latter should act with restraint and take into account Russia’s political, military and financial interests in the region.”