Putin's sale of the SA-18 missiles was probably not made because Russia needs cash. Russia has plenty of money from oil revenues now that the State directly controls its largest exploration and production company and extracts what taxes it needs from the smaller Russian E&P companies. More likely, Putin's sale of the SA-18 is a message directed towards my country, the United States. The United States forced large-scale Saddam Hussein-incurred debt forgiveness upon Russia, froze out Russian commercial involvement in the new Iraq because of its ties to Hussein and Baathists, fomented democratic revolutions in Georgia and the Ukraine, limits Russian military involement in the Balkans, and blunts Russian interference in the politcial affairs of the Baltic states. These are good things by the way as the U.S. action free up local peoples to make their own choices and unburdened by dictator-incurred debts. If the U.S. were a chess player and international relations were a chess game, then you could say that the U.S. has great positional play and control of the center. The Russians are cramped and cannot move much or very well. Putin, by his sale of the SA-18 missiles, is trying to make a move on the periphery. He is warning my country that its planes will be shot down if they enter Syrian airspace. I suspect that U.S. planes violate Syrian airspace all of the time because Syria is sending jihadists to Iraq to kill Americans and to frustrate the democratic progress of Iraqis. I think that it is silly to say that the sale of the SA-18s was motivated due to Israeli jets "buzzing" Mr. Assad's retreat (which Israel should continue until Mr. Assad stops directing or permitting assassinations in Lebanon and bus bombings in Israel that are planned and financed in Damascus). Instead, Mr. Putin wants to be a player in Iraq by telling the U.S. that it needs his cooperation there or else face shot down planes over Syria. Also, given Syria's ties to Iran, which is really the only other piece that Russia can play with in the Middle East, I suspect that some of these missiles could make it to Iran to defend its nuclear-weapons facilities. Putin wants to be a bigger player, there, too. Last, these missiles affect my country and Israel in that it makes Syria and Russia a player in any future negotiation as to the status of the Golan Heights and the configuration of Lebanon. The missiles may limit Israel's ability to strike at the thousands of Hezbollah SAMs pointed at Israel from Lebanon and those located in Syria that are pointed at Israel. Why is this bad positional play on behalf of Russia? Probably because the missiles can be avoided, though with great risk, and Russia will be left in a worse position on this regional chessboard -- weakened or overthrown Syrian allies, weakened relations with the U.S., and heightened skepticism by future Russian "partners" about Russian capabilities (no one wants to be on the side of a loser). I hope that Mr. Putin is paid C.O.D. for the missiles as that may be his only upside.
Three Palestinian teens killed by Israeli army fire during protests near Gaza border (Haaretz)
from the article: Sharon: Russian missiles being sold to Syria do threaten Israel