Media reports of a possible sale of Russia’s S-300 air defense system to Syria have caused undue alarm, according to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
The S-300s, if deployed, will not be allowed to hamper Israeli air force operations on the northern front, he told Ynet in an interview.
“What’s important is that defense systems being supplied by Russia to Syria aren’t used against us,” Liberman said.
“One thing needs to be clear: If someone shoots at our planes, we will destroy them. It doesn’t matter if it’s an S-300 or an S-700,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday denied a report by the news outlet Kommersant that a deal was being finalized, saying that no decision has been made yet on the matter.
Liberman brushed aside the story, saying “they don’t have a grip on reality.”
Furthermore, he denied that Israel’s working relationship with Russia was under a cloud as a result of an airstrike against Iranian facilities in Syria attributed to Israel earlier this month.
“For several years, we have been coordinating with each other and succeeding in preventing direct conflict with the Russians,” Liberman said.
“They understand that we won’t get involved in internal Syrian matters and that we won’t allow Iran to entrench itself [in Syria],” he said.
He noted that Russia already has its own S-300 air defense system in Syria, along with the more advanced S-400 system, and that “hasn’t limited our operations.”
The defense minister departs for Washington on Tuesday night to hold talks with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton on Iran’s expansion in the Middle East, i24News reported.