Russia's refusal to sell Iran S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems acts primarily as a gesture toward the Americans. The official reason for denouncing the controversial decision to sell S-300s lies in the fact that international sanctions were imposed on Iran. However, there's a second, more important reason that is not revealed publicly — the willingness to make a friendly gesture toward Washington. Until today, supporting Iran has been nothing more than a tactical game between Moscow and Washington. In other words, Iran serves as a ''ball'' in the great game between Russians and Americans. The proof for that lies in the fact that the epic entitled ''Selling S-300 to Iran'' dragged on for many months. If Russia actually wanted to supply Iran with missiles, it would have already done so. Since Russia didn't do that, it means that it wasn't playing to win Tehran's gratitude, but something completely different.
The game that Russia was playing with the help of Iran might pay off for Moscow. This is illustrated by the fact that President Dmitry Medvedev's decision was greeted with great joy by Israel, as well as the United States. Equipped with S-300 missiles, Iran would be able to protect its nuclear facilities — American or Israeli airstrikes could then be fended off by Tehran. Without rocket launchers in Russia, Iran is far more vulnerable to a preemptive attack. It is also increasingly isolated in the international arena.
By refusing to sell rockets to Iran, Moscow gained a few points in the White House. Concrete evidence appeared quickly: The very same day, the head of American diplomacy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, explicitly denied Russia being an enemy of the U.S. or NATO and declared her willingness to cooperate, which was what both sides were counting on. This mainly concerns having a common missile defense system and the mission in Afghanistan. This is the reward for successfully addressing the S-300 missile issue.
The next rapprochement between the United States and NATO with Russia will probably happen in November, when talks on the future of the alliance will take place in Lisbon. Moscow can count on a good offer, because it has a number of political tricks up its sleeve, even if selling arms to Syria and Venezuela seems disadvantageous to the Americans. So there is a reason for bargaining.