By Ivan Safronov, Alexandra Djordjevic
In the near future, Russia may indeed begin the delivery of S-300 “Favorit” anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) to Syria. Back in 2010, Damascus contracted the data of the SAM, but at the implementation stage the contract was canceled at the request of Israel, as it feared for its airspace. This time the supply of the ”Favorites” is planned to be carried out on a no-cost basis, in order to create in the shortest possible time a sealed air-defense system capable of covering Damascus and the deployment of aircraft from shelling. Experts believe that the reaction of the Israeli military to such a move will be predictably negative, and some do not exclude an attack from Israel on the locations of the S-300 deployment.
Statements about the readiness to supply Damascus with S-300 complexes were first sounded a few hours after the US, Britain and France attacked Syria on April 14th with a massive missile and bomb attack . The first was made by the chief of the operational headquarters of the RF Armed Forces General Staff Sergei Rudskaya:
“Taking into account what happened, we consider it possible to return to consideration of this issue – and not only with Syria, but also other states.”
On April 16th, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the BBC :
“In order to help the Syrian army to contain aggression, we are ready to consider all the necessary steps.”
And on April 20 he directly told RIA Novosti, that after the last shelling of Syria “we now have no moral obligations.” On the same day, Vladimir Putin held a meeting with the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu: at the meeting, according to an official report, “some aspects of the situation in Syria” were discussed. There were no other details reported.
Two military and diplomatic sources of Kommersant maintain that the issue of the transfer of these SAM’s to the the Syrian army which was “mostly on the political plane,” was practically solved. [Problems with Israel? – ed]
In the department of information and mass communications of the Ministry of Defense, they could not answer on the subject of S-300 in Syria during the weekend .
The S-300 could have appeared in Syria much earlier. In 2010, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic and the special exporter of Russian arms Rosoboronexport signed a contract for the supply of four battalions of SAM in the version of the S-300PMU-2. The contract was first hampered by the civil war that began in 2011 in Syria – only the radar stations were transferred to the customer, but not the rest of the equipment (including launchers and missiles).
In addition to internal circumstances, there were external ones: the Syrian S-300 proposal was constantly criticized by Israel, who believed that, having received such a powerful weapon, the Syrian military could control its airspace.
Eventually, at the request of Tel Aviv, the contract was canceled. “The Israelis expressed concern about the delivery of the same S-300 systems to another country in the region, since the S-300 can get Israeli territory from its territory,” President Vladimir Putin said during a direct line on April 16, 2015 .
This time, the S-300 is planned to be transferred to Syria as part of military-technical assistance. At least, as the interlocutor of Kommersant says in the military-technical cooperation sphere, there is no money for the purchase of new systems of this type as “Syrians do not have money”, and the design of the loan is not included in Russia’s plans (although, according to RIA Novosti , more than 40 units of anti-aircraft missile and gun systems “Pantsir-C1” are still purchased on a commercial basis).
Together with the Soviet systems S-125, S-200, Buk, Kvadrat and Osa, they will form the basis of the echeloned Syrian air defense, which will be able to shield not only Damascus, but also a number of military bases from possible attacks by Israel and the US coalition, where Syrian aviation is stationed and Iranian military instructors are located.
According to Colonel Viktor Murakhovsky, for such tasks in Syria it makes sense to transfer at least three or four divisions of the air defense system of this type. Recall that Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems protect airspace in Khmeimim and Masyafa, and the S-300V4 cover the logistics center of the Russian Navy in Tartus. According to Sergei Rudsky, during the bombardment on the night of April 14th, none of the missiles fired by the US and their cohorts went into the zone of operation of Russian air defense weapons.
The reaction of Israeli officials to Russia’s plans to place the S-300 in Syria has not yet sounded. But former high-ranking officials, including ex-head of the intelligence department of the Israeli Defense Army Amos Yadlin, believe that the Israeli military will inflict a blow on the SAM. In Tel Aviv, they will react to deliveries of the S-300 to Syria very nervously, but now in Syria “everyone catches their fish in muddy water,” believes the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov: “After the April strike, Russia had to somehow answer The United States and its allies, and, apparently, the option was selected with the demonstrative support of Bashar Assad. “
At least the head of the Council of the Federation Council on Defense Viktor Bondarev believes that “the presence of highly effective defensive weapons in the arsenal of any sovereign country will sober the hot heads of not only NATO military and generals.” At the same time, it will take a long time to train the Syrian officers to manage the S-300: the former deputy head of the Russian Air Force for the CIS Joint Air Defense System Aitech Bizhev believes that this will take about three months. At the same time, according to Kommersant’s information, in the places where they are deployed, at first Russian military advisers will be stationed, who will coordinate the actions of the Syrian experts. And if the same Israel decides to inflict rocket strikes on the locations of the S-300 deployment, the consequences, according to Kommersant sources, “will be catastrophic for all sides.”
Kommersant – translated for FRN by J. Flores