Putin Says Russia Withholds S-300 From Syria to Preserve Balance

Russia hasn’t delivered S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria to avoid upsetting the regional balance of power, President Vladimir Putin said.

“It’s perhaps the best such weapon in the world,” Putin said at a briefing with European Commission head Jose Barroso and European Union President Herman Van Rompuy in the Urals regional capital of Yekaterinburg. “We don’t want to alter the balance in the region. The contract was signed several years ago. It hasn’t yet been fulfilled.”

The comment casts doubt on remarks by Bashar al-Assad days ago when the Syrian leader expressed confidence in an interview broadcast May 30 by Hezbollah’s Al Manar television that all arms agreements between the two governments will be honored.

The S-300 is a long-range surface-to-air missile, first deployed by the Soviet Union in late 1970s. The system can engage 12 targets simultaneously at ranges of 200 kilometers (124 miles). The U.S. has told Russia that sales of advanced missile systems to Syria would be “destabilizing” for Israel’s security, Secretary of State John Kerry said on May 9 in Rome.

Israeli Minister of International Relations Yuval Steinitz said May 28 the S-300 missile system amounts to an offensive weapon for the Jewish state because it has a range to attack airplanes over the Tel Aviv region.

During talks with EU officials, Putin said Russia emphasized that any outside military intervention in Syria is “doomed to failure and will inevitably lead to difficult humanitarian consequences.” Russia was “disappointed” with an EU decision to lift its arms embargo on Syrian rebels.

About 80,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war, the United Nations estimated last month.

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