White House: Russia Needs Money

White House spokesman says Moscow's move to supply S-300 to Iran shows the weakness of Russia's economy after being hit by sanctions.

Elad Benari ,

White House spokesman Josh Earnest
White House spokesman Josh Earnest

White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Thursday that Moscow's move to lift its ban on supplying anti-aircraft systems to Iran shows the weakness of Russia's economy after being hit by sanctions.

Earnest, who was quoted by AFP, was responding to Russia’s decision this week to lift a ban on selling Iran its advanced S-300 missile system.

He reiterated Washington’s concerns over the move, and said the administration had spoken to senior government officials in Russia about the decision.

But he suggested Moscow may have been driven by economic desperation rather than just a desire to stir trouble for the West.

"It isn't a particular surprise that Russia may be pretty desperate to generate some income," Earnest told reporters, according to AFP.

"It actually does indicate that Russia's willingness to engage in a controversial transaction like this one is an indication of how weakened their economy has become," he added.

Russia has been placed under a mounting series of sanctions from the West since it annexed Crimea last March and was then accused of supporting militants fighting Kiev's forces in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his decision to lift the ban on supplying S-300 missiles to Iran on Thursday, saying he made the decision after progress was made in the nuclear talks between Iran and the West earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has expressed Israel's "grave concerns" over Moscow's decision, warning Putin it could increase Iran's "aggressiveness" in the region.

Russia signed a contract in 2007 to supply Iran with five S-300 advanced missile batteries, which can be used against aircraft or guided missiles, at a cost of $800 million.

In 2010, Russia's then-president Dmitry Medvedev cancelled the deal, after the United States and Israel applied strong pressure on him. Both countries worry that the S-300 would make Iran less vulnerable to attack by either one of them, and motivate Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.