President Obama said he was “frankly, surprised” Russia waited as long as it did to sell the S-300 missile system to Iran during a press conference on Friday.
“With respect to the Russian sales, i will tell you this is actually a sale that was slated to happen in 2009, when I first met with then-Prime Minister Putin. They actually stopped the sale, paused or suspended the sale, at our request. And, I’m frankly, surprised that it held this long, given that they were not prohibited by sanctions from selling these defensive weapons. When I say I’m not surprised — given some of the deterioration in the relationship between Russia and the United States, and the fact that their economy’s under strain and this was a substantial sale” he stated.
Obama added that the sale “sends a message about how important it is for us to look like we are credible in negotiations [with Iran], if in fact a deal fails and we are needing to maintain sanctions…if it is perceived that we walked away from a fair deal that gives us assurances Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, then those international sanctions will fray…we want to make sure that if there’s no deal on the Iran nuclear program, it’s because the Iranians were not willing accept what the international community considered to be an appropriate and fair approach to this problem.”
Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett