Eurasia Review: "Russia's S-300 System: Leveraging With Guns"

EurasiaView comments on the latest Russian arms-sale to Azerbaijan and concludes:


What is clear, however, is that Russia’s casual vending and deployment of the S-300 underscores the Kremlin’s desire to create points of stress and leverage in key areas of the world. Consider that the S-300 is now deployed in Syria, Armenia, Abkhazia, and likely soon to be sent to Azerbaijan. Iran is technically due for delivery of the system. In a similar vein, Russia’s wrangling over the French helicopter carrier Mistral deal seems to have broken what once seemed to be a certain sale. Russia appears to be going back on its original exclusive bidder partnership with France and is issuing an open tender, which is sure to attract possible suitors from around the world, including Spain and the Netherlands, which have both expressed interest in the past.

The sticking point is on the transfer of technology, which France has refused to include in the sale as originally agreed. Unexpectedly, Russia changed its requirements mid-stream and demanded the inclusion of full systems, which put the program into deadlock. Russia is now upping the ante by inviting other bidders, demonstrating to France – and its labor unions – that it’s happy to go elsewhere for what it wants. [8] Russia has already sowed the seeds of distrust within NATO over the original Mistral agreement, and now sets to go even further by forcing France to compete with other NATO allies like Spain and the Netherlands; it will be a competition on whom can deliver the most advanced NATO technology to Russia for the cheapest price.

To be sure, the Russian strategy in every case seems to be maximizing its leverage against and between different countries – Iran and Israel, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia and the conflict regions, Western and Eastern Europe, and the like. Though the conflicts vary in scope, size, and geopolitical weight, they all share the commonality of Russian strings somehow attached and, ominously, the threat or the promise of weapons sales.

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