Deepening Alliance: Russia Offers Syria State of the Art Air Defenses, Will Upgrade Tartus Into a Real Naval Base

By Adam Hill:Russia Insider.
At least three signs Moscow and Damascus are deepening their alliance

There have been three recent developments that signal Moscow and Damascus are only deepening their alliance in the wake of the failure of the Kerry-Lavrov deal on Syria and subsequent backlash against Russia in Washington.

Firstly the Russian parliament is about to sign onto making the deployment of the Russian air legion in Syria a permanent one. This is a signal that Moscow intends to see its participation in the war in Syria to the end.

Secondly, Russia is willing to supply Syria with state of the art Pantsir-S1 short-range anti-aircraft systems. A source told the Russian daily Izvestia that the deal for such weapons was concluded “a few years ago” but deliveries were stopped because Syria failed to pay for them. Now Russia is considering sending over the weapons which have been warehoused since 2013 without waiting for payment. The transfer is to involve a significant number of these weapons as well — no fewer than 10.

Izvestia notes a purchase agreement for such air defense systems was made in 2008 for between 36 and 50 pieces of weapons and 700 missiles. In fact early on some deliveries were made from this deal so that Syria already operates some Pantsir-S1 weapons — just not necessarily in the numbers required to make a difference. By some reports it was this system that was responsible for the shooting down an encroaching Turkish F-16 over Syria’s Latakia province in 2012.

Pantsir is the latest in Russian air defense technology but it’s a short-range system combining auto-cannons and missiles — it will take down anything but only under 15,000 feet or so.

Finally, Russia will upgrade the naval facility it has maintained in Syria’s Tartus since 1971 into a fully-fledged naval base. Albeit widely reported as a “naval base” in the western press the Russian installations there were a mere repair and refueling station often hosting no more than a handful of Russian military. They are now to be expanded into a base capable of supporting a permanent Russian naval presence in the East Mediterranean.

In other words thanks to the war in Syria and refusal of the US to work with the Russians to pressure for Syria reform instead of seeking regime change by violent means Moscow and Damascus are becoming the close allies they were supposed to be in 2011 — but actually weren’t.

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Victor Imhangbe

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