Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms-export business, recently confirmed it was supplying Iran with surface-to-air defense missiles. It did not say, however, whether its shipments would include the S-300, an advanced long-range version. Both Israel and the United States have vigorously lobbied Moscow to not sell this missile to Tehran, which will undoubtedly use it to protect suspected nuclear weapons sites.
So has Moscow begun to sell the S-300 to Tehran? Russia’s Foreign Ministry recently denied the Kremlin had any plans to transfer weapons to “troubled regions.” On the other hand, IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, yesterday said Moscow was in fact delivering S-300s to Tehran. Moreover, Russia’s RIA news agency stated the S-300 was on its way to the Iranians and Interfax reported the Defense Ministry was about to transfer S-300s to Rosoboronexport for delivery to Iran.
The apparent sale of the S-300 is a virtual declaration of war against the international community. The sale of this sophisticated missile gives Iran reason to believe it can defend its nuclear weapons program from air strikes and, therefore, is a green light for its ambitions to possess the most destructive weapon in history. In short, we now have clear evidence that Moscow intends to destabilize the already-volatile Middle East.
American pundits say we should not return to Cold War rivalry, but it’s time to recognize that Russia’s behavior is now, in some respects, worse than it was during that multi-decade global struggle. Then, unlike the present moment, the Kremlin refrained from helping rogue states obtain the bomb, for example. Our recent attempts to engage Moscow, especially the Bush administration’s go-easy approach after this summer’s Georgian invasion, has been a failure, encouraging, rather than moderating, the Kremlin’s destructive conduct.
No one wants to make the Russians our enemies, but they have, through their own actions, made themselves adversaries of the international community. When will we recognize they have done so? And when will we respond?