Russia to Ship Missile Defense System to Syria

MOSCOW REGION, RUSSIA - APRIL 5, 2017: S-300 long range surface-to-air missile systems seen at Alabino Range during a rehearsal for the upcoming 9 May military parade marking the 72nd anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

Russian Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi stated on Wednesday that Moscow will supply Syria with “new missile defense systems soon.” He did not specify the equipment involved, but other reports in the Russian press suggest he was referring to the vaunted S-300 surface-to-air missile launcher.

“Top Russian officials said that in light of the airstrikes on Syria earlier this month, Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with the S-300 system,” the Associated Press reports.

Just a few days ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the question of whether S-300 launchers would be sold to Syria has not been “settled.”

Lavrov indicated that Moscow is worried that Syria “might turn out to be insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that occurred on April 14.”

Russian military officials said it would take about a month to deploy the system and integrate it with Syrian air defenses once the Kremlin approves. Ruskoi implied that Syrian officers are already being trained on how to use the S-300, which has seen limited deployment in Syria under Russian control.

Rudskoi is the same Russian general who claimed Syria’s air defenses intercepted 71 of the 103 missiles fired by the U.S. and its allies and even captured one Tomahawk cruise missile intact. The Pentagon has stated that none of the missiles were intercepted and all of them struck their targets.

American analysts have expressed some doubt that the S-300 could be effectively linked into Syria’s cumbersome defense network so quickly and furthermore view the Russian SAMs as more of a threat to aircraft than cruise missiles.

Israeli analysts believe that despite Russia’s rhetoric about shielding Syria from American cruise missiles, the S-300 would be primarily intended as a deterrent against Israel, which occasionally strikes threatening targets along the Syrian border.

On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel might take out the S-300 launchers if there is any sign they will be used against Israel.

“One thing should be clear – if someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them. What’s important to us is that the weapons defense systems that the Russians transfer to Syria are not used against us. If they are used against us, we will act against them,” Lieberman warned.

Russian officials, in turn, warned that Israel will face “catastrophic consequences” if it attacks the S-300 system.

The Associated Press mentions that the all-but-forgotten inspection team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is making another attempt on Wednesday to visit the sites of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. The previous attempt was canceled due to security concerns. It has now been nearly three weeks since the chemical attack occurred.

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