Many Russians have been disturbed recently by the spate of exercises along their borders involving NATO troops. Currently there is a similar event on Russian soil that is likely to raise reciprocal concerns in some NATO capitals — a joint exercise involving Russian and Syrian air defense units.
Syria received most of its military hardware from the Soviet Union and Russian arms export officials have indicated that they still regard the Arab state as a prime export market. This is true despite the fact that Syria has been unable to pay its sizable debt for previous purchases. Sales talks earlier in the year foundered on this issue.
During the week-long exercise a Syrian air defense regiment will fire S-200 missile systems against target aircraft. The Syrians have some 48 of these 250 kilometer range weapons — known to NATO as the SA-5. They are deployed primarily to defend Damascus. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 17)
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