Strelets missile systems to be sold to Syria

Strelets surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are to be supplied to Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said. "We will supply the Strelets to Syria, and the balance of forces in the Middle East will not crumble," Ivanov said following the talks with the Ukrainian defense minister. "The Strelets is a short-range SAM system effective out at 5 km at the most. Missiles' reaching the Israeli territory is out of question," he added. Ivanov underlined that according to Russian estimates, Israel is far superior to Syria in military capabilities.

In addition, Russian military officers visiting Israel recently "informed the Israelis clearly" that the Strelets cannot be used as a shoulder-launched weapon.

In his interview with the Israeli media last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he believed the Russian-Syrian "missile deal" would not hamper the Russo-Israeli relations. According to Putin, the Russian military are entitled to monitor and inspect the above SAMs at the places they are to be stored.

"Sure, this will make overflying the Syrian president's palace nap-of-the-earth, but I am not sure such overflights are a good idea, if all of us, including Israel in the interests of its people, want a situation favorable for the peace process to continue," the Russian president stressed.

He also said that Moscow had decided against exporting "serious enough missile weapons that could have really concerned Israel" [to the countries in the region], including Syria. According to Putin, this was done due to Russia being "unwilling to tip the balance in the region, no matter how fragile it is."

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