Russia intends to send S-300P missiles to Syria in order to deter “hotheads” from intervening. Syria’s rebellion against the Assad regime has been bloody and horrific, but Russia and China have vetoed all UN resolutions that would allow a humanitarian intervention. The U.S. deployed an equivalent defense system, the US Patriot system, in Turkey. This was to guard Turkish air space against attack. Handing over the S-300P missiles to the Assad regime will make it even more challenging for the U.S., Israel or other nations to intervene. According to a 28 May BBC News article, Russia also criticized the European Union (EU) for not continuing an arms embargo that would help the nations to carry out a peace conference that was scheduled for June.
The S-300P missile system can deploy a variety of surface to air missiles that engage with aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. In other words, the system is an air defense shield just like the U.S. Patriot system.
Russia is in the column of nations that care more about maintaining alliances than about ending Syria’s horrible civilian death and refugee crisis. Russia has few remaining friends there and Assad has a Russian built arsenal. He is a valuable asset to Russia. The second column holds politicians who are war-ready in the U.S., Israel and other nations. Israel and Hezbollah have their never-ending global war as their only real interest in Syria. The final column is appalled that 80,000 Syrians are dead and 1.5 million have fled to neighboring nations. There is a grave refugee crisis in neighboring countries. Accusations of chemical attacks on the Syrian people increase the likelihood that both the war-ready and the humanitarians will support an intervention. If chemical attacks are confirmed, many expect the U.S. and other nations to engage in some form of intervention to bring the Assad regime down.
The EU arms embargo convinced Russia to withhold arms from Syria, but the member states did not have a unanimous vote for an extension. The embargo ended on May 25. Arms can now come into Syria from any nation and they could go to either side.
The Israeli Defense Minister said, “I hope they (the missile systems) will not leave (Russia), and if, God forbid, they reach Syria, we will know what to do,” he said. Neighboring nations like Lebanon and Turkey will not tolerate strikes from Syria. Those nations are also overwhelmed with Syrian refugees.
On Monday, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain traveled to Syria and met with some Syrian rebels. According to a May 27 New York Times article, he feels that the U.S. “could easily strike the Syrian defenses with cruise missiles, cratering their runways, where all of these supplies, by the way, from Iran and Russia are coming in by air.” His plan has shallow, surface appeal, but does not say how a U.S. air intervention would get past equally effective Russian air defense systems.