Syria tries to turn Russia against Israel and America

Thursday, August 21, 2008 |  Israel Today Staff

Syrian President Bashar Assad traveled to Moscow on Thursday to try to drive a wedge between Russia and Israel amid on ongoing crisis in Georgia and in light of Jerusalem's military aid to the small Caucasus nation.

An Assad aide told Russian media as the Syrians arrived in Moscow that they would seek to purchase advanced air defense systems, medium-range missiles and military aircraft, among other military hardware, from their hosts. If acquired, those weapons would help to tip the regional balance of power in favor of Israel's neighbors.

Israel stopped selling military hardware and providing military training to Georgia earlier this year as experts correctly predicted an armed conflict with Russia. Jerusalem feared that if it was viewed as helping Georgia fight Russia, the latter would increase arms sales to Israel's Arab enemies.

Statements by Russian leaders as the Georgian war raged that they appreciated Israel's "balanced" approach calmed those fears, at least temporarily.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Moscow's current policy is to sell only defense weapons to Syria, but that it would also entertain any new requests by Assad.

Assad also told Russian media that he is ready to host Russian ballistic missiles in Syria to help Moscow respond to America's intention to deploy an advanced missile shield system in Poland.

The Syrian leader's efforts to further damage ties between Russia and the West comes in the wake of major European powers courting Assad by inviting him to major national events.

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