Gnarly Russian brass visit troops launching military exercise near St. Petersburg, Mar 2015. (Image: AP/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
The brief period of perfunctory “cooperation” between the U.S. and Russia in Syria is well and truly over, and nothing signals that quite as clearly as the deployment of the SA-23 air defense missile system.
We already knew this, to a large extent. Russia and her coalition launched a concerted campaign to retake western Syria in mid-September, and they’re fighting it now, without regard for life or property. They’re fighting to win: to gain control of the territory and push the rebels out of it, no matter what it takes.
The Obama administration warned peevishly last week that the Russians are finding themselves in a quagmire. But that’s only if the Russian coalition fails to simply obliterate everything it has to, to reclaim the territory held by the rebels.
The coalition will not fail to do that. The reason is that no one is going to stop it. Obama and the media seem to be slow learners in this regard, still fondly imagining that some unenforced, artificial compunction about what happens to the Syrians will act as a brake on the Russian coalition’s intentions. Can the Western left really be that thick?
Apparently so. Obama’s lackadaisical irrelevance has allowed the Russians to push this far. Now Putin is pushing farther, with the deployment to Syria of the SA-23 (the NATO designation) – referred to also as the Antey-2500 and the S-300VM. (The most modern version, the S-300V4, is reportedlywhat has been deployed to Syria.)
It’s a version of the S-300 air defense system made by Antey for the Russian army. The S-300 version most people are familiar with is the S-300PMU, which is the air defense forces version (coming in multiple variants). The “V” in the SA-23’s Russian designations means the Antey-2500 S-300 is used by the Russian army. It’s the land forces version, and besides being highly capable – newer and more capable than any other S-300 in service – its purpose is to defend battle space for a ground war over large areas.
To state the title proposition up front, this is what Putin has just done. He has changed his war in Syria from one of limited expeditionary goals to one of controlling and defending territory against the most modern military forces on the planet.
The S-400 was already there