Russian Presidential Aide for Military and Technical Cooperation Vladimir Kozhin revealed at the end of last week that his country wouldn’t be delivering this system to Syria because the latter “has everything it needs”, which instantly sparked a flurry of furious reactions in social media from people who had convinced themselves that Russia just “backstabbed” Syria. That’s not true, at all, because even Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov clarified a few weeks ago that no decision had been made in this regard and that Russia was only signaling that the previous so-called “moral obligation” that it felt in not transferring these missiles to Syria was no longer a factor. Unfortunately, some people interpreted characteristically ambiguous and open-ended diplomatic statements according to their own confirmation bias in convincing themselves that these missiles were on their way, or in the most extreme case according to some Alt-Media narratives, had already arrived.
The latter train of thought is attributable to a Syrian official’s statement in this respect, although it was almost immediately denied by the Russians after it was made. It’s unclear whether this pronouncement was an innocent error or part of what is typically called “MILDEC”, or “military deception” operations designed to confuse an adversary about one’s military capabilities. In any case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the shipment wasn’t going through but added that it had nothing to do with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow as President Putin’s guest of honor during last week’s Victory Day celebrations like some people thought. This comment is very important because it indicates that the Kremlin made this decision independently of Israeli lobbying and before the Putin-Netanyahu Summit, suggesting that it was due to Russia’s strategy in “balancing” Syria, Israel, and Iran more so than any other factor.
To back up this theory, it’s enough to quote President Putin himself when he was speaking to Israeli media in 2005 and answering a question about why Russia didn’t sell certain military equipment to Syria during that time. According to the Russian President, “We refused this deal because we do not want to violate any balance, however fragile it may be, that exists in the region”, and it’s conceivable that he retained this “balancing” vision into the present day. Unlike then, however, there wasn’t ever officially any deal on the table for Russia to “refuse” because the previously quoted government sources stated that no such agreement even existed in the past month that the idea was bandied about. It was literally just that, an idea, and never anything more no matter how much some people may have imagined otherwise irrespective of the confusing signals that came out of Damascus.