With thousands of air defence units in its armoury, Syria will be no easy target for a Western attack, a former Russia military commander warned.

“Syria’s air defences are capable of giving an adequate response to strikes by the United States and its allies in the anti-Syrian coalition if they unleash war,” a former commander of Russia’s air defence forces told the Interfax news agency on Friday.

“Damascus today has about a thousand units of anti-aircraft rocket systems, and more than 5,000 anti-aircraft artillery systems of various types,” the former commander said.

The official did not rule out that Syria already has the advanced S-300 missiles, which could pose a serious threat to a Western air campaign.

“If Russia did not deliver the missiles, as its top leadership stated, Belarus or China could have done it on the quiet in 2010 or 2011,” he said.

Older Soviet systems, S-200 Angara and S-200V Vega “would be just as dangerous for U.S. aircraft and cruise missiles,” the Russian commander said, adding that the upgraded S-200V batteries constituted the backbone of the Syrian air defences.

The official described the long-range S-200 missile as “the best Russian system” developed to intercept the Pershing medium-range ballistic missiles the U.S. deployed in Europe during the Cold War.

“The modernised S-200V missile performs like a well-trained dog: just tell it ‘attack’ and it will get the enemy no matter what evasive action he tries,” he said.

Russia has signed no new arms contracts with Damascus since the start of the civil war in Syria, but is still supplying it with weapons under earlier deals, a top Russian arms exporter said.

Deputy head of Rosoboronexport Viktor Komardin told reporters on Friday that the delivery list included Tor and Bug air defence missiles, as well as the Bastion coastal missile defence systems.

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