Russia has defied Israel and the United States and is going through with its sale of Yakhont cruise anti-ship missiles to Syria that could endanger the Israeli Navy. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said he rejects fears that Syria, a designated country that supports terror, will allow the missiles to fall into the hands of Hizbullah.
"The United States and Israel ask[ed] us not to supply Syria with Yakhont," he told reporters during a visit to Washington. "But we do not see the concerns expressed by them that these arms will fall into the hands of terrorists.
Hizbullah used advanced Russian anti-tank missiles against Israel in the Second Lebanon War, causing heavy casualties and surprising Israeli intelligence sources that did not know Syria had facilitated their transfer to Hizbullah.
Moscow’s announcement that it will honor its 2007 commitment to sell the missiles represents a failure for Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who early this month flew to Russia to try to stop the deal while also clinching Russian purchases of Israeli unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs).
Serdyukov warmed up to Barak, praising Israeli defense capabilities. “It is very important to us that in the transition to a new image, the Russian armed forces use the experience the Israeli armed forces have and the work they have done,” he told Defense Minister Barak.
He sealed contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with the defense industry, with which Barak built up strong contacts during his hiatus from politics after his Labor government coalition collapsed and he lost a re-election bid in a landslide victory for Ariel Sharon, who then was head of the Likud party.
Barak told Serdyokuv of his concerns that the Yakhont cruise missile could endanger Israeli navy ships because of their range of 180 miles and their capability of carrying a 400-pound warhead while cruising only several feet above waters, out of the range of most radar systems.