Russian President Vladmir Putin warned Israel on Saturday that the government’s decision to sell weapons to Ukraine would be “counterproductive” and flame the fires of conflict.
Israel’s move to supply weapons to Ukraine come in response to the Kremlin’s decision to supply Iran with the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missile system.
“It’s the Israeli leadership’s choice,” Putin told Russian state-run media. “It’s their right to do what they think is appropriate.”
“It will only lead to another round of conflicts, to a rise in the number of victims – and the outcome will be the same,” the Russian leader added.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Putin to convince the Russian leader to halt the sale of the missiles to Iran.
According to Netanyahu, providing Iran with the S-300 missiles “will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East.”
Despite expressing Israel’s “grave concerns” over the Kremlin’s decision, Netanyahu failed to sway Putin to change his mind.
At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, the prime minister once again warned of continued Iranian aggression. “Israel views with utmost gravity the supply of S-300 missiles from Russia to Iran, especially at a time when Iran is stepping up its aggression in the region and around the borders of the State of Israel,” he said.
“There is no stipulation that this aggression be halted, whether at the start of the agreement or as a condition for the lifting of sanctions.”
In a statement released by the Kremlin, “Putin stressed that the S-300 missile system is purely defensive and will not pose threat to Israel or any other country in the Middle East.”
Putin lifted a ban on the delivery of the S-300 missile system on Monday in light of a framework agreement made between Iran and the P5+1.
Part of an $800 million deal made between Russia and Iran in 2007, the deal was canceled in 2010, then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev due to mounting pressure from the West.
The Russian made surface-to-air missile system has the ability to intercept cruise missiles and aircraft. The most advanced model of the S-300 can target ballistic missiles and makes it much more difficult for enemy aircraft to target specific sites for attack.
According to a recent report on Israel’s Channel 2, the Israeli Air Force has been training in the last several years against the S-300 system by using the systems of allied nations who already have the technology.
The controversial arms deal is, according to White Spokesman Josh Earnest, “an indication of how weakened their economy [Russia’s] has become” due to mounting sanctions placed on Russia by the West.
“It isn’t a particular surprise that Russia may be pretty desperate to generate some income,” Earnest told reporters on Thursday.
US President Barack Obama expressed his surprise on Friday over the fact that the suspension on the missile deal “held this long.”
Obama explained that Putin suspended the sale “at our request. I am frankly surprised that it held this long, given that they were not prohibited by sanctions from selling these defensive weapons.”