Yesterday morning we reported that in immediate retaliation for the US threat that the Pentagon may launch air strikes against the Assad regime in the latest and most dramatic escalation in the Syrian proxy war in years, Russia's Defense Ministry said that a battery of Russian S-300 air defense missile launchers has been transported to Syria. As Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, “the Syrian Arab Republic received an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. This system is designed to ensure the safety of the naval base in [Syrian city of] Tartus and ships located in the coastal area [in Syria]…”
Then, in an amusing twist, Konashenkov said it is unclear why the deployment of the missile system has created such a fuss in the West. "The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat,” he said.
To which we said that "of course, a defense system is precisely what the Pentagon would prefer to avoid in case an offensive attack was launched."
Today, Russia confirmed that the deployment of the Surface-to-Air missile battery was clearly aimed at containing US offensive ambitions, when the Defense Ministry cautioned the US-led coalition of carrying out airstrikes on Syrian army positions, adding in Syria there are "numerous S-300 and S-400 air defense systems up and running", as cited by RT.
Taking the mic for the second day in a row, Igor Konashenkov said that Russia currently has S-400 and S-300 air-defense systems deployed to protect its troops stationed at the Tartus naval supply base and the Khmeimim airbase. He added that "the radius of the weapons reach may be “a surprise” to all unidentified flying objects."
Uttering the loudest warning yet that any US-coalition airstrikes would be met with a Russian response, the Russian Defense Ministry said that any airstrike or missile hitting targets in territory controlled by the Syrian government would put Russian personnel in danger, clarifying that "members of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria are working on the ground delivering aid and communicating with a large number of communities in Syria."
“Therefore, any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen.”
“Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,” Konashenkov added. Adding to the warning, the spoeskman also noted that Syria itself has S-200 as well as BUK systems, and their technical capabilities have been updated over the past year.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s statement came in response to the previously flagged “leaks” in the Western media alleging that Washington is considering launching airstrikes against Syrian government forces.
“Of particular concern is information that the initiators of such provocations are representatives of the CIA and the Pentagon, who in September reported to the [US] President on the alleged controllability of ‘opposition’ fighters, but today are lobbying for ‘kinetic’ scenarios in Syria,” he said.
He cautioned Washington to conduct a “thorough calculation of the possible consequences of such plans.”
He is not the only one: as we reported earlier in the week, launching bombing raids over Syria would necessarily require the creation of a "no fly zone" for Syrian and, more importantly, Russian warplanes. To that point, during testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services last week General Joseph Dunford rang the alarm over such a strategy, saying that it could result in a major international war which he was not prepared to advocate on behalf of.
The key exchange took place after Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi asked about Hillary Clinton’s proposal for a no fly zone in Syria in response to allegations that Russia and Syria have intensified their aerial bombardment of rebel-held East Aleppo since the collapse of the ceasefire.
"What about the option of controlling the airspace so that barrel bombs cannot be dropped? What do you think of that option?" asked Wicker. "Right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia. That is a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make," said the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff suggesting the policy was too hawkish even for military leaders.
It remains to be seen if the US president, either the current or next one, will be willing to make a decision which as Russia has now confirmed, would lead to direct, lethal conflict between the US and Russia.