Any air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces will be considered a direct threat to Russian forces and prompt immediate retaliation, according to a Russian Defense Ministry official.
“Today, the majority of Russian officers from the Russian Center for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic, are working on the ground, providing humanitarian help and holding talks with the leaders of local communities and militia units in the majority of Syrian provinces,” said Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, Thursday. “Russian S-300, S-400 air defense systems deployed in Syria’s Hmeymim and Tartus have combat ranges that may surprise any unidentified airborne targets. Operators of Russian air defense systems won’t have time to identify the origin of airstrikes, and the response will be immediate. Any illusions about ‘invisible’ jets will inevitably be crushed by disappointing reality.”
The “invisible jets” Konashenkov is likely referring to are the U.S. F-22 and F-35 fighter aircraft, both of which feature advanced stealth technology. Russian forces recently installed new S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries in Syria in an alleged attempt to protect their assets in the country. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook responded Russia’s deployment of the new system by questioning the country’s true motives.
“Last I checked, the Russians said that their primary goal was to fight extremism, ISIL (ISIS) and Nusra, in Syria. And neither one has an air force,” Cook told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday. “So I would question just what the purpose of the system is, if they’re installing. Maybe the Russians have a better explanation.”
Konashenkov’s comments are the latest in a series of thinly-veiled threats made by Russian officials in the last week. U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated significantly since Russia’s failure to abide by a mutually agreed upon ceasefire in Syria in September, which was followed by reports over the weekend that U.S. officials were considering military strikes against Assad and Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that he was suspending ceasefire talks with Russia.
Konashenkov referenced the administration’s talks, which he referred to as “leaks,” warning “as history has shown, such ‘leaks’ often prove to be a preface to real action.”
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