- - Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The lifting of the Russian internal ban on selling the S-300 missile system to Iran is a really big deal. Iranian possession of such a highly sophisticated and deadly weapon will completely change the Middle Eastern chessboard when it comes to the Iranian nuclear negotiations. Israeli or American attack aircraft will be highly vulnerable when targeting Iranian nuclear facilities with the S-300 operational in-country.

The S-300 is a high-altitude, long-range, anti-aircraft missile defense system that was initially fielded by the Soviets in the 1970s. It can track and engage multiple targets at once and is highly mobile. The new versions can be fielded in five minutes. The deployment of this system by the Islamic Republic of Iran will exponentially increase the difficulty of a military strike against nuclear targets in the Shia Islamic regime. The question is, why did Russian President Vladimir Putin make this decision and why now?

The question posed can be answered in two parts. The first explanation is obviously the Russian economy, which soon could be in deep recession if the price of crude oil stays in its current range and international sanctions stay in place against the Russian Federation. Russia doesn’t manufacture many things in quantity for export, but they do make really good weapons. Selling arms is big business and brings in hard currency for the Kremlin. Adding additional markets for arms sales, such as Iran, is a big win for Moscow. So the Russians are striking while the iron is hot, or put another way, when the opportunity arises while the Obama adminstration is desperate for a deal and needs Russia’s help. Moscow is signaling to Iran that if you play along and get the Americans to remove sanctions, we will make it worth your while.

Second, Russia will do anything at this point to poke a stick in the eye of the United States, and the S-300 is a big stick. Again, Mr. Putin senses weakness on the part of the Obama adminstration and knows Secretary of State John Kerry will not complain too much if they sell this weapon system to Iran. Russia sees the animosity President Obama displays toward Israel and realizes America will look the other way as Russia makes Iran almost impervious to Israeli aerial attack and makes a lot of money for itself at the same time.

But could there be a more sinister outcome for the United States concerning Russia and Iran, and the outcome of the nuclear negotiations? It is well known that Mr. Putin has been looking East for friends after being isolated by the West. Attempts to de-dollarize Russian trade with China and other partners is in full swing. Energy deals have been signed, that although are slanted toward China price wise, provide Russia with buyers of its gas for years into the future. Sino-Russian military cooperation is increasing as well. Could a more concrete relationship between Russia and Iran be in the cards?

Russia is in a very good position to aid Iranian nuclear weapons development. Since the “deal” that is being negotiated in Switzerland eventually gives Iran the bomb, perhaps Russia has decided to disregard altogether its image in the West and help Iran develop its military capability. After all, Russia is very concerned about Sunni Islamic fundamentalism in Chechnya and the other predominantly Sunni regions of Russia. Perhaps if they arm Iran, the mullahs could do some of their dirty work for them.

Maybe Russia has decided to help Iran develop a range of military capabilities. If they consider it a foregone conclusion that this development will move forward eventually under the “framework” being negotiated, why not gain first-move advantage?

Finally, if Russia could build an alliance with Iran against the influence of the United States in the region, which is literally on Russia’s southern border, then the Kremlin will have achieved multiple goals at once, making money and hurting the interests of the United States, which Russia and Iran both consider the Great Satan. All you have to do is watch Russian state television to figure that one out.

So the result of the Obama administration’s reset with Russia and its nuclear appeasement with Iran could be an axis of nuclear powers from Moscow to Tehran to Beijing, who all loath the United States. No wonder Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so upset.

By the way, welcome to my new blog with The Washington Times called Behind the Curtain. Our goal will be to attempt to foster an understanding of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe among the American public and to help bridge the canyon between our two cultures and societies. The issues raised and discussed will cover a wide range of topics. I’ll strive to add a few third-party articles as well that I find interesting. So here they are … Thanks for reading!

Kremlin Reliance on the Russian Orthodox Church May Backfire, Analysts Say

Explained: Russia’s Military Options in Ukraine

For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit LToddWood.com.

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