WASHINGTON (Feb. 28)
The deployment of Soviet manned SAM-5 long-range surface-to-air missiles in Syria “is a sobering and destabilizing” development which demonstrates the need for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, Secretary of State George Shultz said today.
Confirming that the Soviet-made missiles are being manned by Soviet personnel, Shultz told the Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee that “there is no indication that we see that they aspire to train Syrians to man these weapons.” He added that the U.S. view of the deployment of the missiles has been expressed to the Soviets.
He said the deployment of the SAM-5s in Syria also demonstrates the “importance of pushing and pushing hard” with the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and for an overall Middle East peace settlement. “The potential destabilizing impact of the new Soviet missiles only emphasizes the importance of advancing the peace objective which we have had all along,” Shultz said.
The seriousness with which the Reagan Administration views the placement of the SAM-5s in Syria, which have a range of 180 miles and places them within striking range of northern Israel, was also underlined by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger who said in a television interview today that “Syria has become an outpost of the Soviet empire.”
Declaring that the SAM-5s are “very effective anti-aircraft weapons,” Weinberger, in an interview on the NBC-TV “Today” program, said, “Now there are thousands of Soviet advisors in Syria.” The SAM-5s now in Syria mark the first time the Soviets have deployed the anti-aircraft batteries outside the USSR.
Weinberger noted that the missiles are also within striking range of U.S. aircraft operating in the Mediterranean, making the missiles “much closer than they should be … This makes the Middle East situation more complex.”