Putin Continues to Arm Mideast

From the January 2008 Trumpet Print Edition

Moscow will continue supplying weaponry to states hostile to the United States, the Russian president announced at the end of October. In response to recent U.S. criticism of Russian arms exports, President Vladimir Putin said the flow of arms to the Middle East would continue.

When the Commission for Military and Technical Cooperation met in Moscow October 31 to discuss 2007’s arms exports, which are expected to reach $8 billion, up from $6.5 billion in 2006, President Putin opened the meeting by making a statement pointedly directed at the U.S.

While asserting that Russia would comply with international regulations controlling arms exports, Putin stated: “[W]e cannot and will not take into consideration any attempts to impose any restrictions on us based on unilateral or politicized judgments” (rfe/rlNewsline, Nov. 1, 2007).

Putin’s statements at the meeting were a direct rebuff of U.S. requests for Russia to curb its arms sales. In the previous couple of weeks, Washington had criticized Moscow for attempting to destabilize U.S. policy in the Middle East by delivering weapons to Iran and Syria.

In late October, U.S. Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns urged Russia to stop arms deliveries to Iran. Since concluding a contract in late 2005, Russia has supplied Iran with 29 Tor-M1s, a high-precision anti-aircraft missile system. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also criticized Russia’s arms sales to Syria.

“Arms sales,” wrote rfe/rlNewsline, “are one of several tools that Putin uses to demonstrate Russia’s claim to world-power status …” (ibid.).

Izvestia, a daily owned by the Russian state-controlled Gazprom, stated that increased arms sales are a means by which “Russia puts pressure on the Americans” (Nov. 1, 2007).

Arms sales are just one of Russia’s tools to thwart U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. Moscow is currently effectively using its relationship with Tehran to gain geopolitical leverage and handicap American power.