Russia has announced that it will send sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles to Syria in an attempt to stabilize the country as European Union ministers agreed Tuesday to end the arms embargo against the war-torn country, paving the way for EU member nations to supply Syrian rebels with weapons.
With a strong push from British Foreign Secretary William Hague, EU ministers agreed not to renew the embargo which is set to end June 1. They have, however, committed member nations to keeping all sanctions against the Syrian regime in place.
Although a formal decision has not been made to arm Syrian rebels, the EU's actions will now make it possible. Mr. Hague has expressed a desire to arm the rebels for some time. Following the lifting of the arms embargo he told the media that the decision gave Britain flexibility to act if necessary.
Russia's announcement Tuesday will add a further dimension to the civil war in Syria and western plans.
The BBC reports: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the missiles were a "stabilising factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict. Russia also criticised a decision by the EU not to renew an arms embargo on the Syrian opposition. Mr Ryabkov said the move would harm the prospects for a peace conference.
The supply of S-300 missile systems to Syria is part of a long-standing contract according to Ryabkov.
Russia's stance is that the weapons they are supplying are purely defensive, and will help prevent the civil war from becoming a global conflict. Russian ministers claim that the missiles will not change the situation in Syria.
Some western leaders are eager to get into Syria. The prevailing opinion in the West is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, at any price.
The rebels however, sometimes called the official opposition, are fragmented. With various factions pulling this way and that, they do not offer Syria and its people stability.
Foreigners unofficially fight alongside Syrian nationals and events are manipulated for many ends. The Syrian people have become lost in the fight between the regime and the opposition.
The humanitarian crisis is increasing daily but the West does little in real terms to ease suffering. Attention is currently focused on ousting al-Assad by whatever means possible.
What the future will be for Syria is difficult to guess. Russia remains one of the few countries still supporting the regime. Perhaps Russia is the only country openly doing so.
Are the Russian missiles bad news or will they will contain the Syrian civil war and prevent a global conflict? Hard to say but if they can why would we complain?