Russia Send Air, Sea Defenses to Syria: A Warning to US/West’s Contemplation of All-Out But Illegal Military Intervention
Russia’s chief arms exporter said Friday, June 15, that his company was shipping advanced defensive missile systems to Syria that could be used to shoot down airplanes or sink ships if the United States or other Western nations try to intervene to halt the country’s spiral of violence.
“I would like to say these mechanisms are really a good means of defense, a reliable defense against attacks from the air or sea,” Anatoly Isaykin, the general director of company, Rosoboronexport, said Friday. “This is not a threat, but whoever is planning an attack should think about this.”
As the weapons systems are not considered cutting edge, Isaykin’s disclosures carried greater symbolic import than military significance.
They contributed to a cold war chill that has been settling over relations between Washington and Moscow ahead a meeting between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin, their first, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting in the Mexican resort of Los Cabos next week.
His remarks come just days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised diplomatic pressure on Russia, Syria’s patron, by criticizing the Kremlin for sending attack helicopters to Damascus, and amid reports that Moscow was sending an amphibious landing vessel and a small company of marines to the Syrian port of Tartus, to provide security for military installations and infrastructure.
George Little, a Defense Department spokesman, declined to comment on Isaykin’s remarks.
Alexander Golts, an independent military analyst in Moscow, said the Russians’ discussion of weapons shipments “undoubtedly” serves as a warning to Western countries contemplating an intervention.
“Russia uses these statements as a form of deterrence in Syria,” he said. “They show other countries that they are more likely to suffer losses.”
Throughout the Syrian crisis, Russia has insisted that all its arms sales to the isolated government of Bashar Assad have been defensive in nature and were not being used in the Syrian leader’s vicious campaign to suppress the opposition.
Isaykin underlined the point, but in a way that could also be interpreted as a warning to the West against undertaking the military action of the sort that ousted Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya, something that Putin viewed as a breach of sovereignty that he does not want repeated.
Yet, as news reports of government massacres emerge almost daily from Syria, the prospect of the United States or NATO acting unilaterally has become a more frequently discussed option, particularly given Russia’s adamant refusal to authorize more aggressive U.N. action.
Isaykin, a powerful figure in Russia’s military industry, openly discussed the weapons being shipped to Syria: the Pantsyr-S1, a radar-guided missile and artillery system capable of hitting warplanes at altitudes well above those typically flown during bombing sorties, and up to 12 miles away; Buk-M2 anti-aircraft missiles, capable of striking airplanes at even higher altitudes, up to 82,000 feet, and at longer ranges; and land-based Bastion anti-ship missiles that can fire at targets 180 miles from the coast.
Military analysts immediately questioned the effectiveness of the air defenses Russia has made available to the Middle East, including Syria, none of which have offered even token resistance to Western forces.
Ruslan Aliyev, an authority on military affairs at the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow, said that statements by Isaykin and others were issued principally for political effect. Moscow has declined to supply Syria with its most lethal air defense, the S-300 long-range missile system.
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Andrew E. Kramer, “Pioneer Press” — MOSCOW –
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