American Hellenic Institute

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U.S. Government Analysis Confirms AHI Assessment of S-300 Air Defense System as Wholly Defensive
September 15, 1998 No. 41/98


On September 15, 1998, the American Hellenic Institute sent a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright citing a U.S. government report confirming that the S-300 air defense system under acquisition by the Republic of Cyprus is wholly defensive in purpose and has no offensive capability. A copy of the letter is attached.

The letter cites a January 1998 report prepared for the State Department by the U.S. Army Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC) and obtained by the British American Security Information Center. The report states that the short range (30 km) and exclusively surface-to-air capabilities of the S-300 system mean that it can only be used in a defensive mode. The system does not even have the capability of reaching the Turkish mainland. Finally, the report states that the Government of Cyprus does not have the capability to convert the S-300 system into an offensive surface-to-surface system.

The report confirms the analysis put forward by AHI from the outset of this question. AHI argued that that the system is entirely defensive in nature and has no offensive capability. In multiple letters to the Administration AHI pointed out that the prime purpose of the S-300 was to defend against aircraft on their final attack vectors and that the system therefore posed no threat other than to an enemy undertaking an actual attack against the territory of Cyprus. AHI pointed out that the system posed no threat whatever to the mainland of Turkey, which it could not even reach.

In the light of the MSIC analysis, AHI's letter questions the State Department's approach to the S-300 issue. It asks why the State Department gave so high a profile to this issue and why the State Department encouraged exaggerated assessments of the S-300's capabilities. Most importantly, the letter asks why the State Department allowed Turkey's wholly unfounded assertions of a potential offensive role for the S-300 system to go unchallenged. Turkey's assertions have significantly increased regional tensions.

The letter concludes by calling for corrective action in the form of a clear statement by the U.S. government to the effect that Turkey's threats against Cyprus in connection with the S-300 are illegitimate and that any action by Turkey would encounter a swift and decisive response.