Russia’s deployment of S-300 to Syria seen as challenge to U.S. air power

by WorldTribune Staff, October 5, 2016

The Pentagon is publicly challenging Russia’s motives for deploying an S-300 missile defense system to Syria.

S-300. /Reuters
S-300. /Reuters

“Last I checked, the Russians said that their primary goal was to fight extremism, ISIL and Nusra, in Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, referring to Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and another terror group formerly known as Nusra Front.

“Neither one has an air force… So this is something we’ll watch carefully. But it should be clear to the Russians and everybody else operating in Syria how seriously we take the safety of our air crews,” added Cook, according to AFP.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Oct. 4 confirmed it sent an S-300 system to its naval facility in Tartus.

Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the S-300 “is a purely defensive system and poses no threat to anyone. It’s not clear why the placement of S-300 in Syria has caused such a stir among our western colleagues.”

In addition to operating a naval facility in Tartus, Russia operates an air base outside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, which currently houses planes used in Moscow’s bombing campaign in support of long-time ally Bashar Assad.

A senior Russian official said in August that Russia was planning to expand its Hmeimim Air Base in Syria into a permanent military facility. The air base already has an S-400 air defense system, the most modern in Russia’s arsenal.

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted a ban on the delivery of the S-300 to Iran.

Since then there have been repeated reports that the delivery of the missile systems was imminent. The last report, in July, said the contract will be implemented by March of 2017.