On Syria, Russia signals the west
Reports indicate the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be purchasing a package of fighter jets from Russia
January 23rd, 2012
06:49 PM ET

On Syria, Russia signals the west

By Jill Dougherty

In a defiant slap at international sanctions against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia's arms trading company, according to Russian media reports, has signed a $550 million deal to sell Syria combat training jets.

But Moscow's move may be aimed more at sending a message to Washington than with helping al-Assad.

Asked about reports of the sale Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "If it's accurate, it would be quite concerning."

"Our firm belief is that any country that is still trading in weapons and armaments with Syria really needs to think twice," Nuland said, "because they are on the wrong side of history, and those weapons can be used against innocents and have been."

The United States already is asking Moscow to explain why a Russian ship reportedly delivered munitions to Syria earlier this month in violation of European Union sanctions. Nuland said Moscow so far has not given any "clarity" on the shipment.

Two top State Department officials have raised the issue of Russian military supplies to Syria during visits to Moscow. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns discussed the issue a week ago and Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman currently is in the Russian capital, according to Nuland.

"Issue number one on his agenda there is Syria," she said, as well as U.S. efforts to muster support for the U.N. Security Council condemnation of the Syrian government's violent crackdown on demonstrators that, according to the United Nations, has killed 5,400 people in 10 months.

Nuland said the United States has frequently warned Moscow "about how dangerous we think it is to be continuing to trade in weapons and encouraging them to do what they can to stop such trades."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed any idea that Moscow needs to explain any arms sales to the Assad regime, which has been carrying out a violent crackdown.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also cautioned, "No one must interfere with Syria. This is dangerous."

Behind the scenes, however, there are signs the Kremlin may be quietly adjusting its position.

In comments quoted by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency, Mikhail Margelov, a member of Russia's Parliament and President Dmitry Medvedev's special Africa representative, indicated that Russia has run out of methods to stop the international push for al-Assad to step down.

Russia's veto of the U.N. Security Council resolution, he said, "was the last instrument allowing Bashar Assad to maintain the status quo in the international arena" and was a "serious signal to the president of Syria from Russia. This veto has exhausted our arsenal of such resources."

Matthew Rojansky, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tells CNN that, by selling fighter trainers or supplying munitions to Syria, Russia is trying to send a signal to the West not to attempt any Libya-style "regime change" there.

"It's not that Assad is objectively so important," Rojansky said, "it's that Russia is absolutely drawing a red line vis-a-vis the Libya precedent."

He added, "I don't think they are interested in seeing the Assad regime continue to use weapons against its own citizens. They've been pretty clear that they oppose the bloodshed. So they're not arming him so that he can win in a confrontation. They would like to be the ones that broker an end to the confrontation."

The arms sales, he says, are not major. If Russia sold Syria the S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system, he says, that would be significant.

The latest moves are "intentionally brash, intentionally public, coming in quick succession," he says, "and that's because it's about signaling."

Syria is not the only global hot spot where Russia stands to frustrate U.S. policy. On Tuesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry lambasted a fresh set of tough EU sanctions against Iran's oil sector as "deeply erroneous."

The sanctions, which aim to cut off imports of Iranian oil and freeze assets in an effort to starve the country's nuclear program of funding, are unlikely to drive the Islamic Republic to give up its nuclear program, or could even be counterproductive, the Russian foreign ministry said in its statement.

And Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, told a group of reporters there is nothing substantive at this point to even indicate Iran was building an atomic weapon.

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. ClarkClurn

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    March 31, 2012 at 4:29 am | Reply
  4. peter

    "Syria is not the only global hot spot where Russia stands to frustrate U.S. policy. " It's the key phrase.
    Russia is guilty because it doesn't allow US to kill people in Syria as it was in Lybia!

    January 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  5. Sgt. Fury

    Me and my Howling Faggots will kill all the Ruskies in days.

    With our cocks. Wa-hoooooo!!!!!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  6. Russapenisdownmythroat

    someone tell Gumby that pokey needs him

    January 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Reply
  7. Russapenisdownmythroat

    lol this name says it all

    January 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Reply
  8. Iranacockuptheirass

    never never never never nevereverevrevrever trust the damn Russians.........We should have blew them up when Reagan was alive...LONG LIVE REAGAN******Hate the russians

    January 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  9. Igor

    The United States already is asking Moscow to explain why a Russian ship reportedly delivered munitions to Syria earlier this month in violation of European Union sanctions.
    Idiots before to write about the politician and geopolitics, it is necessary to know that Russia does not consist in the European Union!!! The journalist even does not know it!!! Stupid!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Reply
  10. Kerry

    Ever since Russia went Communist it has been on the wrong side of history. The changes there now have not made them any more benevolent or respectful of human rights. Harsh land, harsh people.

    January 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
    • Pavel

      americans, you are funny)) I think your goverment despises syrians as well as our and all your honest desires for helping of syrians oppositions are just trick. gosdep pursues only one target that is total control of the whole world. hmm sorry however there are some contries that don't support such ideas, surprise! 😉

      January 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
      • Just Wondering

        Money, power, murder it is the Russian way.........

        January 24, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
      • Andrey

        Well, honestly I think we should make a distinction between American people, American government and American Liberals. I am personally OK with American people. And I do have certain respect for American government too – they are mostly well educated hard working people trying to do what they believe best for their people and their country. As for American Liberals – they are certainly a different animal. That's them who want the world domination. In this respect they are not any worse than their European cousins who have been very busy the last 10 years destroying their own countries but still looking for how they could impose their thinking on all other people. So consider CNN one of the most liberal news agencies in the world which would naturally attract liberal junkies from everywhere – and of course from US. So take it easy. Remember – we already have the same problem in Russia, and it is growing too. No reason to look down on US and judge them – they are made to act against their best interest so often because their politicians are too afraid to turn their backs to liberals – they know them too well, this guys are back stabbing blood thirsty brutes.

        January 24, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
      • The War Criminal General Sherman

        Money, power, murder – it is the American way..........

        January 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Russapenisdownmythroat

      Ahh yes Pavel.....cum to me.....lol...mylil,ruskiee

      January 24, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Reply
    • Jon

      Hey Pavel, I got your suprise buddy....

      January 24, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  11. pwstatz1121

    I dont think that Russia selling arms to the Syrians has anything to do with the unrest. I really dont think they care who wins or loses. I think they just want the money; they sure need it.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
    • Mama's Boy General MacArthur

      So whenever America deals arms to dictators, it's all about ethics, not profit?

      January 24, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
    • Russapenisdownmythroat

      That may be the case..however we don't like crack heads selling their shit to eat, so why should this be any different? Actually it's a hell of a lot worse!

      January 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  12. Chicagorich

    Well we have to talk to the Russians about what to do with the hot spots in the region. They may not be that concerned about Assad, but I would find it difficult to believe that they would be comfortable with haveing Iran making nuclear bombs and missiles to deliver them with enough range to reach Russia. Surely there can be some common ground amongst the World powers there as it is in none of their best interests.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
    • Sayan Majumdar

      @Chicagorich, you are absolutely right. Russia like India will never welcome another nuclear armed neighbour to complicate the security matrix of the region.

      They already feel disturbed by presence of two potentially hostile nuclear armed neighbours in shape of China and Pakistan.


      January 24, 2012 at 11:44 am | Reply
  13. Sayan Majumdar

    Removing tyrant yet (comparatively) secular Saddam Hussein opened up Pandora’s Box in the Middle East something United States administration either failed to foresee or underestimated.


    January 24, 2012 at 10:32 am | Reply
  14. vadim

    Why is it necessary to reply USA?. They may have some warships in different region....and barking always....

    January 24, 2012 at 10:29 am | Reply
  15. Vadim

    Russia does not need the advice of Washington to whom or what to sell. In this case, by selling combat-training jets was not violate any international rights. You can stay with your opinion as long as you want to. But anyone who can do some analysis of what is happening at the Middle East understands that the U.S. foreign policy was never for democracy, but for more power and resourses.

    January 24, 2012 at 9:33 am | Reply
    • Pharos

      It was the PEOPLE in the Middle East, who made the decision to revolt. It your decision to be revolting.

      January 24, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
      • Mama's Boy General MacArthur

        Yes, it was. And whom did they revolt against? Oh, that's right, American backed tyrants, despots and dictators.

        January 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  16. ranger 830

    All the jets in the world wont make a hill of beans in a conflict with Isreal The E.U. or U.S.!!!!!! The money whore Russians are just trying to make a buck! More pilots more aircraft will only make for a target rich enviroment when and if the shit hits the fan!!!! You can take that to the bank!!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply
    • Mama's Boy General MacArthur

      Yes, only America is allowed to prosper on strife.

      January 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
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  17. Igor datsenko

    Hi! I'm citizen of Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad are both dictators. So, they are friends. Becouse of this, Putin helps to syrian dictator. One day, Putin will die. After this, citizens of Russia & Syria will be free. I hope it so much

    January 24, 2012 at 7:41 am | Reply
    • Alexander

      No you are not! You an idiot

      January 24, 2012 at 7:54 am | Reply
    • AlexShch

      Igor, you are an idiot regardless whether you like or dislike Putin.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • Dontopitek

      igor, i don't like putin, i don't like him very much, but still i have to regretfully join the above opinions – you really are an idiot.

      January 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
    • Andrey

      Being Russian citisen does not make you Russian, and it does not make you the citzen. In your particular case – you are just MUDAK: liberal asshole of a fool.

      January 24, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  18. Sayan Majumdar

    The Russia supplied Yakovlev Yak-130 Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) is arguably the most formidable AJT in international market with considerable surface strike and Counter Insurgency (COIN) capability.

    The Russians should at least obtain a written assurance from the Syrian government that these AJT platforms will not be misused (in suppressing popular movements) under any circumstances.


    January 24, 2012 at 7:21 am | Reply
    • AlexShch

      State of the art or not, there are just trainers, not much to real jet fighter.

      January 24, 2012 at 11:56 am | Reply
      • Sayan Majumdar

        @AlexShch, Yes they are trainers, only too heavily armed and sophisticated for a trainer. They easily qualify as (not so) light strike aircraft with 3-ton weapons load.


        January 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  19. mipolitic

    well must i repeat myself if pres obama appears weak the russians will walk all over him and his foriegn policy. this is putin at his finest , ignoring the usa pres. if pres mr obama does nothing with iran and iran gets a nuke bush and cheney will will look like angles compared to obama in the history books and records. if israel does not strike iran first iran will strike israel in the name of the great profit ,wow this is no tihe for inaction. iraq was a lie but this is the real deal.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:45 am | Reply
    • Egor

      So, even if Iran ever gets a nuke how is it going to be a threat to the USA which has 1000's of nukes?

      Or you are from Israel? Even in this case you should be fine since Israel (breaching all international non-proliferation treaties) has by modest estimates 150-200 nukes – more than enough to make Iran non-existing.

      January 24, 2012 at 6:05 am | Reply
      • mamoud

        Wee IIranians weel defeet the ameeikans whether or nott we have 2 or 200 nucleer deevices. Death to all stoopid ruskies and amerikans! Dogs and woolves. We middle eest peeple are the best!

        January 24, 2012 at 6:57 am |
      • Dontopitek

        махмуд отжигает по тяжёлой, а, егор? да, восток дело тонкое...

        January 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  20. Egor

    The United States already is asking Moscow to explain why a Russian ship reportedly delivered munitions to Syria earlier this month in violation of European Union sanctions. Nuland said Moscow so far has not given any "clarity" on the shipment.


    I guess Moscow is jut calmly waiting when Nuland will be fired and replaced with someone who at least is aware that Russia is not a member of European Union.

    January 24, 2012 at 5:07 am | Reply
    • AlexShch

      I am not aware of this report, but I would be interesting to read. Where?

      January 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  21. mamoud

    We Iranians lub the russinas.

    January 24, 2012 at 12:24 am | Reply
    • Jared

      Mamoud...the middle east is a sinking ship at some point the russians will have to take a step back...as soon as they do Bashar all terrorist will cease to exist...you guys had 1 chance and that was to make peace with israel...without that muslim countries really are of no use to the world as a whole...North America and Europe could easily take these countries oil and make cash from it...countdown is on

      January 24, 2012 at 10:07 am | Reply
  22. America's Greatest Fairy; J. Edgar Homo

    Katya, valid point. However, don't ever ignore them – or pretend they don't matter. America is arrogant. America loves to underestimate. It is her Achilles heel.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Reply
    • mamoud

      shut up homo

      January 24, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  23. KatyaKatya

    Please don't trust the Russians, ever.

    January 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Reply
    • Vadim

      your boyfriend find a russian girl, am i right? 😀

      January 24, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply

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