Russian Missiles in Syria will Prolong Suffering, Dempsey Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 17, 2013 Russia’s planned delivery of advanced anti-ship missiles and the S-300 air defense system to Syria “is at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering,” said Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey during a Pentagon news conference today.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went on to call the decision “ill-timed and very unfortunate.”
Dempsey, speaking alongside Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, said the United States continues to try to find a way for the United States and Russia to work together to end the Syrian civil war. “One of the primary reasons that Secretary of State John Kerry went to Moscow was to find some … intersection of interests in the Middle East,” Hagel said.
The secretary said there is a real danger that the war could spill over Syria’s borders and ignite the entire region. “What we don’t want to see happen is for Syria to erupt to a point where we may find a regional war,” he said. “We continue to work with the Russians and do everything we can to convince the powers in the region to be careful with escalation of military options and equipment.”
Hagel said the United States is leaving all options open. “We are already doing a lot in Syria on the humanitarian side, the non-lethal side,” he said. Still, U.S. leaders are trying to work out some consensus on Syria with the players in the region and beyond.
The anti-ship and air defense capabilities are more capable systems, Dempsey said. The S-300, for example, has a higher ceiling, longer range and multiple tracking capability. “It pushes the stand-off distance out a little more, increases risk, but it’s not impossible to overcome,” he said.
“What I really worry about is that (Syrian leader Bashar) Assad will decide that since he’s got these systems he is somehow safer and more prone to a miscalculation,” the chairman said.
There are several capabilities that Syria has not used responsibly including chemical weapons, long-range rockets, missiles and high-end air defense, Dempsey said. “The things they have in their control, we have things to deal with,” the general said. “We do not have options in any way to prevent the delivery of any military sales to Syria.”