Russia-Syria Missile Sale Would Be ‘Destabilizing,’ Kerry Says

A potential Russia-Syria missile sale was opposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday. The former vice president commented that such a weapons deal between the two nations could be a threat to US ally Israel.

Kerry added that the US opposes the sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles from Russia to Syria. Israel’s northern neighbor has been locked in a bloody civil war for more than two years.

While Kerry declined to denounce the reported agreement. However, he commented:

“We’ve made it crystal clear that we prefer that Russia would not supply them with assistance. That is on record. That has not changed.”

Kerry went on to say that the proliferation of surface-to-air missiles “is potentially destabilizing with respect to the state of Israel.” He added, “We have made it very clear historically that that is a concern of the United States.”

Russia supplying Syria’s government with missiles is not unheard of. However, the potential sale of antiaircraft weapons reported on Thursday threatens to undermine the agreement the US Secretary of State made in Moscow this week. Both governments promised to press for peace talks between Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his US-backed opponents.

Along with refusing to denounced the missile sale reports, Kerry also declined to compare military aid from Russia with the so far strictly humanitarian aid coming from the United States. In recent days, President Barack Obama has considered backing away from his nonmilitary aid stance and arming the Syrian rebels. Some Arab states have already begun to do so.

Along with Kerry, White House spokesman Jay Carney stated that the US is disappointed in Russia’s continued support of the Assad regime, including the latest reports of missiles being sold to Syria’s government. Carney explained:

“We have consistently called on Russia to cut off the Assad regime’s supply of Russian weapons including air defense systems that are destabilizing to the region. We have also long said that Russia could play a more constructive role in Syria.”

The reported missile deal between Russia and Syria started in 2010. According to the report, Syria has been making payments to Russia to purchase four batteries at a cost of $900 million. The Wall Street Journal asserted that the latest monetary transaction took place this year. The package apparently includes six launchers and 144 operational missiles with a range of up to 200 miles. Delivery is expected soon.

[Image via Vitaly V. Kuzmin]