How Putin’s decision to deliver S-300’s to Iran may change the balance of power in the world

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Recorded April 14, 2014 on RBC

Translated April 21, 2015 from Russian by Kristina Rus

Host: Good Evening, this is Obosrevatel, I am your host Elena Spiridonova. 

Tehran is expecting deliveries of Russian S-300 this year, and considers it a guarantee of stability in the region. The West doesn’t agree. EU, USA and Israel voiced their concerns. Official representative of the White House even threatened new sanctions on Russia if Moscow begins the program “goods for oil”.

Why  is Russia taking this step two months before the signing of a historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Who is this signal intended for and what reaction should we expect from Tel Aviv, we will discuss with our guests and we invite you to our website

We would like to learn your opinion: what will the delivery of S-300 lead to?

There are three options: 

  • Intensification of situation in the Middle East, think 35% of our audience
  • Rebuilding of Russia’s reputation as a reliable partner: 32 %
  • No consequences: 33.5%

Joining me in the studio, is the President of the Institute of Middle East, Evgeny Satanovsky, good evening!

S.: Hello

The first question, why did Putin sign the decree now, when on June 30 the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is supposed to be signed.  Why did Putin sign this decree now? Do you thing there is a rush?

S.: No, the spring has arrived. When if not in spring to lay foundation for future harvest? If we talk about a rush, Americans are rushing to normalize relations with Iran. They have to throw out our gas and oil from Europe, they have to rely on Iran in the zone of the Persian Gulf, in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

If Obama made a firm decision to spit on any logic. When a historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program is commented by a French foreign minister that Iran has 2 months until a nuclear bomb, and otherwise will have a year, what kind of a historic agreement is that? 

All we need is a nuclear war in the Middle East following this agreement, just like in 1937 when Chamberlain and Daladier came from Munich and talked much about generations of peace in Europe and a WWII begun in a year.

The situation is very simple, everything needs to be done timely and today is that very situation, when if Russia doesn’t deliver it, then the West will deliver it. 

If Moscow delivers these systems, will it change the balance of power?

S.: Only when they become operational, and not a day earlier, it will become pretty difficult to bypass these systems in order to bomb Iran’s nuclear objects and the state structures which they will cover.

This means that Israel, which understands that if Iran doesn’t withdraw it’s issues with the existence of Israel, then they will have to fight Iran. Iran will fight to death, and the Jews will not depart this world on their own. 

Israel has three options: 

a) Destroy whatever they can, even the entire Iran, if they cannot destroy all the nuclear facilities, it is easier to destroy Iran. 15-20 objects, out of almost 40, Israel can destroy without America’s help. They don’t have enough for Iranian nuclear complex, but enough for the entire Iran.  They have time until the systems are delivered and made operational,  probably a year after they are delivered. 

b) If a miracle happens, and God intervenes personally: Iran hates Israel, and it is mutual, but they enter a mode of mutual containment, just what happened between us and Americans after the Caribbean crisis.

c.) Very similar to the first one: Israel learns to block radio-location systems of S-300. S-300 doesn’t work when Israeli programmers don’t want it to. 

Is it possible? 

S.: Anything is possible in this world! Just recently we thought a war with Ukraine was impossible. 

Recently Putin said this is the best system. 

S.: You know the best polished stone axes were made in Guinea 10 thousand years ago, no one else had the same. In each stage someone has something better in the world. For every shield there is a sword, and vice versa.

Let’s listen to the opinion of Israeli publicist, journalist and social activist, Avigdor Eskin. We are discussing possible options of reaction of Israel, what should we expect?

E.: Your conclusions are very solid, these topics are discussed in Israel daily. But I have to add that the atmosphere has changed after the Israeli embassy in Moscow failed to explain to the Israeli leadership the impossibility of refusing to attend the celebrations of May 9 in Moscow. 

This bureaucratic decision will be very costly for Israel in terms of changing the atmosphere which I and my colleagues warned about several weeks ago. 

I must remind you, that Russia was willing to meet Israel in this issue, refusing deliveries of S-300 for 8 years.

If you listen to our military experts, and especially unofficial comments, Israel can cope with any military task on the destruction of Iran’s nuclear capabilities if Iran continues with its policies of threats to destroy Israel. 

And I agree with the notion, that not one state in the world should live under fear of complete destruction from a neighbor. We can argue about something, but no one has a right to threaten complete destruction, which is what Iran is engaged in today.

Israel has answers to all of these issues, and naturally these answers are not exposed live on TV. 

As far as relations with Russia,  I would like to express my outrage at that awful treatment demonstrated towards May 9, and call to change the situation before it’s too late.

Do you see a connection between the refusal to attend May 9th parade and deliveries of S-300?

E.: It is a change of atmosphere. Israel led a very noble precise position on the issues of attempts to rewrite history. The latest faux pas made by our ambassador … only if a voice of Mr. Stanovsky could explain in a good Russian during 15 seconds to any top Israeli politician why they must be present in Moscow on May 9. Even if he didn’t know Russian, he would come here, I can assure you.

There are things which are unacceptable. And the absence of Israeli president at May 9th is completely unacceptable, and will be very costly. And we as Israelis patriots must be openly vocal about this, and at least have a Minister of Foreign Affairs be present there, at the highest level. 

Thank you! 

Would you explain the importance of participating in May 9?

S.: I explained all of this yesterday and today at a top Israeli level, we shall see what happens. But it has nothing to do with deliveries of S-300. 

Of course it is important for Putin who will attend May 9, but not to that extent. It’s Putin. I would not say the same about Medvedev, who is very emotional, who used to fire people left and right on a whim.  Putin is not subject to acting on a whim.

This decision is a result of activities of one person – Barack Obama, the president of the United States, who adopted all the decisions, as a result of which we are now under sanctions, and Iran is close to becoming a friend of the United States. 

If you are playing this game, for every move, there is a counter-move. This is an issue of our relations first of all not with Iran, but with today’s American bloc, and it’s militant hamsters, if we talk about NATO.

What is the reaction of the Saudis on the the rapprochement of Washington and Iran? 

S.: Horror.

Iran is much closer to Saudi Arabia then Israel, and a clash of all monarchies of the Gulf with Iran is a meeting of a pack of Cocker Spaniels with a Caucasus Shepard. They will be torn to pieces and nothing will be left.

A war between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been going on for a long time. This is a big Sunni-Shia proxy war. 

We see all it’s fronts:  Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and finally Yemen, look how horrified were the Saudis when the Houthis in Yemen went south, how they blamed Iran for everything, which is absolutely wrong. 

By the way, we mention Yemen as an argument for the deliveries of these systems, do you think we can prevent this rapprochement between Washington and Iran by these deliveries. Is it in our interest? 

S.: Lets not even think about it.

Iran dreams about making a deal with America, but on its terms, Obama’s America dreams about making a deal with Iran, but tries to make a nice face in a bad game. 

Doesn’t Russia dream about it? 

S.: We can dream about anything we want, but we have to play with the cards, which we are left with, and we must win with those cards. We don’t have different cards. We don’t have a different Iran and a different America. And this is why I repeat Putin made the first move not only in this issue.  Look at SCO, when Pakistan, India and Iran will become members of SCO. 

This means next time a Central Asian spring begins, there will be a single front including not just us, China, and a couple of countries of Central Asia, but also Iran, India and Pakistan against the salafist terrorists, sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And this is very serious.

In this situation Russia needs Iran much more then Americans, because Central Asia for us is much more important then Afghanistan, Iraq and pushing Russians out of the European oil and gas market for Obama.

Let’s talk about what we are going to deliver to Iran, we are joined by Andre Baklijsky, Director of the Program “Nuclear Russia. Non-proliferation” 

Good Evening

What systems are we talking about, as far as I understand those systems which were part of the old deal in 2007 are no longer produced?

B.: That is correct, there was information that those systems which were assembled to be delivered to Iran were dissembled and utilized. There is no confirmation of that. But it is indicated by the fact that we will have to carry out some prep work. It is hard to say what we will deliver to Iran.

We must understand that S-300 is a large mechanism, comprising of many different components, and there may be different combinations with various rockets, and until a contract is signed it is hard to talk about what will be delivered.

We heard about a possibility of delivering S-400 to Iran. How likely is that? Or is it not in Russia’s strategic interest? 

B.: We should not exclude it, we can talk about very different combinations, we can deliver S-400 with rockets from S-300 there are many options, but S-400 costs more and we need it for ourselves more because of modernization of our army, and we need it more.

If America is getting close to Iran, could these S-300 be used against us?

S.: Everything can be used against us. We used to be friends with China under Stalin, parted ways under Khrushev, had a fight under Brezhnev, and now are friends again under Putin. It’s life. 

When we drowned the Persian queen, or when we chopped all the Northern territories from Iran, like Dagestan, did we think we will ever deliver S-300 to Iran?

When we didn’t finish dividing Iran with the British in the beginning of the 20th century, we were supposed to divide it, and the Caspian was supposed to become our internal sea, and then we changed our mind. 

And when the British-Americans squashed our Gilyansko-Mazondoranskaya Republic…

This decision by Moscow to deliver S-300, could it influence the talks on Iranian nuclear program and does it threaten it?

S.: It doesn’t threaten anything. We were already blamed for it. Kerry already warned us, and Hillary Clinton put her 5 kopecks in this piggy bank, very russophobic American politicians. They blame us for anything anyway – whether it’s Psaki’s pregnancy or a failure of Iranian talks – it’s all Putin’s fault.

And in this situational dead end,  when America wants to make a deal with Iran at any cost, and they frankly, as much as Europeans could care less about the Iranian nuclear program, because frankly they are not threatened by Iranian rockets or nuclear bombs. 

Yes for Israel it is a huge problem, as well as for the Saudis. It is  the end of nonproliferation period, but they are willing to go for it, what do we have to do with it?

Andre, what do you think about the likelihood of sealing the agreement in July. Do you thing this gives Tehran another argument in the negotiation process? 

B.: Regarding the likelihood of an agreement, its difficult to say if an agreement will be made. Good progress has been made. What we saw in Lozanne was an oral agreement, which is interpreted very differently by Iran and the US, and whether it will be legally sealed is difficult to say.

I have an opinion that at least in Russia there is a general opinion that the agreement will be made and sanctions will be removed from Iran, and our plans in the nuclear industry, when we are making agreements to finish building Busherskaya Nuclear Power Station, we agreed on two more energy blocks, and now are talking about S-300 – these are indications that Russia thinks the sanctions will be removed and we may begin to prepare. 

As said earlier even if deliveries are possible, they will begin discussing the new contract, I am more then sure that nothing will be signed until the end of talks about the Iranian nuclear program.

What about the new market for Russian arms – will it compensate the fall in oil prices?

S.: Does an increase of temperature in a separate corner of our country compensate the length of a crocodile? These things are completely unrelated. It is useless to compensate a drop in oil prices, and it has nothing to do with what we are talking about with Iran. This depends on so many factors. Russian negotiators are winning whatever and whenever they can.

Thank you very much.

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