August 17, 2008
DEBKAfile’s military sources report Moscow’s planned retaliation for America’s missile interceptors in Poland and US-Israeli military aid to Georgia may come in the form of installing Iskandar surface missiles in Syria and its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
Russian Baltic and Middle East warships, submarines and long-range bombers may be armed with nuclear warheads, according to Sunday newspapers in Europe.
In Georgia, Russian troops and tanks advanced to within 30 km of Tbilisi Saturday, Aug. 15. A Russian general said Sunday they had started pulling out after president Dimitry Medvedev signed the ceasefire agreement with Georgia and president George W. Bush called again for an immediate withdrawal.
After routing Georgia over the breakaway enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Moscow appears to be eying Poland, the Middle East, and possibly Ukraine, as the main arenas for its reprisals.
One plan on the table in Moscow, DEBKAfile’s sources report, is the establishment of big Russian military, naval and air bases in Syria and the release of advanced weapons systems withheld until now to Iran (the S-300 air-missile defense system) and Syria (the nuclear-capable 200 km-range Iskandar surface missile).
Shortly before the Georgian conflict flared, Moscow promised Washington not to let Iran and Syria have these sophisticated pieces of hardware.
The Iskander’s cruise attributes make its launch and trajectory extremely hard to detect and intercept. If this missile reaches Syria, Israel will have to revamp its anti-missile defense array and Air Force assault plans for the third time in two years, as it constitutes a threat which transcends all its defensive red lines.
Moscow’s war planners know this and are therefore considering new sea and air bases in Syria as sites for the Iskander missiles. Russia would thus keep the missiles under its hand and make sure they were not transferred to Iran. At the same time, Syrian crews would be trained in their operation.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report Syrian president Bashar Assad will be invited to Moscow soon to finalize these plans in detail.
Military spokesmen in Moscow said Saturday and Sunday that Russian military planners to started redesigning the nation’s strategic plans for a fitting response to America’s decision to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and the war developments in Georgia.
The chairman of the Israeli Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, Tzahi Hanegbi, spoke out strongly Sunday, Aug. 17, against treasury plans to slash the defense budget. He warned that the military faced grave confrontations in the coming year – possibly on several fronts.