As tensions continued to simmer over Syria, Russia has said it would neither participate in any direct armed confrontation nor stick to the sidelines should a war break out in the Levantine state .
Displaying skills of a veteran grandmaster used to making calibrated moves on the diplomatic chessboard, Mr. Putin chose to rely on studied ambiguity while carefully deliberating on Moscow’s forthcoming plans.
InHe spoke in a well-timed interview withto Channel One and the Associated Press (AP) ahead of the G-20 summit which is expected to be dominated by the Syrian crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “Certainly, we do not intend and will not engage in any conflicts.” But he added that, “We have our own ideas about what and how we are going to do in the event of conflict development with the use of weapons, or without it. We have our own plans, but it’s still too early to talk about it.”.
If there was a clue about the trajectory of the President’s thinking, it came in the form of his revelation that Moscow was ready to arm Syria with “game-changing” S-300 air defence missiles, if the need arose.
Moscow would also be ready to transfer advanced weapons to “some regions in the world” in case “international regulations” were violated. “We have a contract for the delivery of the air defence systems S-300, we have delivered some components [to Syria] for these air defence systems, but the supplies are not complete, we have suspended the supplies,” the Russian leader affirmed. However, “if we witness that some steps are being taken in violation of the effective international regulations, we will think it over how we should act in the future, particularly regarding the supplies of such sensitive weapons in some regions of the world”.
Mr. Putin said Russia’s arsenal of air defence missiles had grown in sophistication beyond the S-300 missiles, signalling that supplies to foreign partners may not be confined to these projectiles.
The President pointed out that the S-300 missiles were inferior to the latest S-400 air defence systems and the S-500s, which were in the developmental stage. Russia has so far blocked the sales S-300 missiles to Iran, but analysts say that Moscow’s perceptions could change in case Syria, Tehran’s core ally, was attacked.
Mr. Putin stressed that Moscow would consider western military action against Syria outside the sanction of the U.N. security council as an act of “aggression”.
The Russian President’s interview also seemed timed with a parallel decision by Moscow to strengthen the naval presence close to the Syrian coastline in the Mediterranean, which already has American warships. Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying Moscow is dispatching a missile cruiser to the east Mediterranean to take over the navy’s operations in the region. The command-and-control ship, Moskva, will be joined by a destroyer from Russia’s Baltic fleet and a frigate from the Black Sea fleet.
“The Cruiser Moskva is heading to the Gibraltar Straits. In approximately 10 days it will enter the east Mediterranean, where it will take over as the flagship of the naval task force,” the source said. Interfax had earlier reported that Russia was also sending a reconnaissance ship to the region, which would operate separately from the main naval task force.
Russia’s incremental naval build up — far modest than the accumulation of American warships — is taking place at a time when the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee drafted a resolution on Tuesday permitting up to 60 days of military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, but denying presence of any boots on the ground.