WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – The possible activation of Russian S-400 missile defense systems in Syria would "pose an increased threat” to American troops and U.S.-led coalition forces, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, nominee to head U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), claimed during his confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
"The S-400, once activated, will increase the threat to our forces and our coalition partners flying over Syria," he said. "We are still working out on how it is going to be executed."
Russia has deployed S-400 mobile missile batteries at the Khmeimim Airbase in Syria but has not yet activated the defense systems.
The S-400 is the next-generation mobile defense system which can carry three different types of missiles capable of destroying a variety of aerial targets at short and extremely long ranges, from reconnaissance aircraft to ballistic missiles.
McKenzie also stressed that Washington would not seek to affect the Russian forces in the region while conducting operations against terrorists.
"It is clearly not an objective of our presence in Syria," McKenzie said during Senate testimony when asked whether the goal of the U.S. military presence in Syria was to serve as a check against Russia's influence there.
The U.S.-led coalition is allegedly conducting military operations against the Daesh terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. The coalition's operations in Syria are not authorized by the government of President Bashar Assad or the United Nations Security Council. Moreover, according to Damascus, the coalition killed a vast number of civilians during the campaign and used white phosphorus munitions, which are banned by the UN.
A U.S. general says the possible activation of Russian S-400 missile defense systems in Syria would "pose an increased threat” to American troops and U.S.-led coalition forces.