The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that U.S. forces will continue to conduct air strikes in Syria, despite Russia’s recent threats to shoot down any aircraft that threaten its forces or those of its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“Our operations will continue,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook when asked by The Daily Caller News Foundation if Russian actions have impeded U.S. air strikes in the war-torn country.
The U.S. continues to take “precautions with regard to the safety of our air crews” and despite recent “differences” with the Russians, the safety line of communication established to prevent any accidents in Syria is effective, Cook said. America continues to use the safety line and “would encourage the Russians to do the same,” Cook concluded.
Hours before Cook’s briefing, a Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman threatened that any air strikes against forces belonging to Russia or Assad will be met with retaliations by newly deployed S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries. The thinly-veiled threat is the latest in a series of increasingly aggressive statements from Russia. U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated since the failure of a bilateral ceasefire in Syria in September. Russia and Syria’s breach of the agreement forced Secretary of State John Kerry to suspend future peace talks with Russia, leading the Obama administration to explore possible military options against Assad, according to reports.
Cook reiterated his past statement regarding Russia’s deployment of the S-300 batteries, noting the terrorist groups Russia claims to be fighting in Syria have no air forces, which raises questions as to why the batteries have been deployed at all.
The S-300 is a surface-to-air missile system that can target both aircraft and cruise missiles. Russia deployed the system on at least two of its bases in Syria Tuesday, claiming it would be used to protect its military assets. Russia’s embassy in the U.S. followed news of the deployment with a tweet from its official Twitter account hinting that the U.S. was backing terrorist elements.
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