Russia to strengthen Syria’s defenses from future US strikes
|Sunday, 09 April 2017|
In the aftermath of Thursday’s Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the Ash Sha’irat airbase in Homs, Syria, Moscow vowed to strengthen its air defense umbrella over the country. Experts have already explained which systems need to be deployed to ensure Syria’s safety against future US attacks.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov has confirmed that Moscow will be strengthening Syria’s air defenses following the massed US cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase Thursday night.
"In order to defend the most sensitive objects of Syrian infrastructure, a number of measures will be implemented in the near future to strengthen and improve the effectiveness of the air defense systems of the Syrian Armed Forces," Konashenkov said Friday at a Ministry briefing.
The spokesman suggested that it was noteworthy that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from US Navy destroyers made it to their targets at Ash Sha’irat. "It is not clear whether the other 36 cruise missiles landed," Konashenkov said, without offering any more details.
Indeed, an air of mystery now surrounds the three dozen failed cruise missiles, with experts speculating over whether they were simply duds, past their "best before" date, or if they may have been shot down by Syria’s air defenses.
Russian experts, meanwhile, have also explained that Russia’s own air defense systems deployed in the country are marked for the pinpoint defense of Russian military sites and hardware in the country. Furthermore, they’ve pointed out that until Thursday’s incident, the Russian systems had operated in accordance with Moscow’s memorandum with Washington on avoiding incidents over Syria’s skies. This presumably meant that the air defenses wouldn't target presumed 'friendly' US objects. On Friday, Moscow suspended the agreement.
Still, the 23 missiles were enough to severely damage the Ash Sha'irat airbase, destroying six MiG-23 fighters, a storage depot, training facility, cafeteria and radar station. Over half a dozen soldiers, as well as nine civilians, are also thought to have been injured or killed in the attack.
Moscow’s decision to strengthen Syria’s air defenses is long overdue, says Vladimir Karjakin, a retired Air Force colonel and professor at the Defense Ministry’s Military University in Moscow.
In the final analysis, Karjakin suggested that thankfully, it doesn't yet seem that this ‘gesture’ by Trump will become a regular occurrence. "I think that this was a one-off gesture by President Trump. With the missile strike, he improved his rating in the eyes of the US political elite, demonstrating that he is ‘resolute’ and that he is not on Moscow’s leash," something the mainstream media and his opponents had long accused him of.
"If that’s the case, strengthening the Syrian air defenses may not seem necessary. However, as they say, 'better safe than sorry'. Dense air defense systems around the most important pieces of infrastructure can't hurt."
In any case, the expert noted that Russia and Damascus had learned a valuable lesson Thursday. "Ultimately, everything depends on the resolve of the parties. If, next time, the US is repulsed, this will serve as the best deterrent against the escalation of tensions around Syria," Karjakin concluded.