Russia is well known to go back-and-forth in its relations with Iran, both in terms of delivering the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system as well as assisting on nuclear energy. One day it’s all green light, and the next, it’s put on pause.
Nervous about Tehran’s plans, Israel has taken an interesting approach to lobbying Russia not to deliver the S-300s to Iran: by supplying them with $50 million worth of surveillance drones. In effect, Israel is helping to rearm Russia – which probably doesn’t sit well with the Baltics, Georgia, and Ukraine – in exchange for de-arming Iran. However, nobody can sure if Russia will hold up its end of the deal (the Iranian purchase was valued at $800 million, dwarfing this small gift from the Israelis), so it was more a situation of paying the costs of not selling Russia the drones.
By bringing Russia into its circle of foreign UAV clients, Israel hoped to bury any ill-will over the Georgian conflict and win scope to apply pressure over Iran, the industry source said.
“What was our alternative, to say no to the Russian request for our drones? The thinking was: let’s go ahead and sell, and then try to gain sympathy on the S-300 issue,” the source said.