Russia warned NATO member Greece that sending the Soviet-designed S-300 missile defense system to Ukraine would be viewed as “a highly provocative step.”
A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry even suggested that the Kremlin would try to locate any anti-aircraft weapons.
“We consider the plans to supply the Kyiv regime with S-300 or other Russian/Soviet air defense systems to be used against Russia very provocative,” Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters.
“The Greek authorities recently underlined their readiness to supply Ukraine with the S-300 PMU1 missile defense system, on the condition of receiving US Patriot missile defense systems to replace them,” it added. “There is complete indifference on the part of Greece about international limitations on the arms trade.”
Greek aid to Ukraine
The Russian threat followed unconfirmed reports that Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos had promised to provide Ukraine with the S-300 system currently in storage on Crete. In return, Athens would receive an American-made Patriot air defense system.
“If the US deploys a Patriot system on Crete after it is integrated into the national air defense system, the S-300s can be retired,” Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said during a speech on Tuesday.
The US would have to follow a “similar protocol” for any additional Russian air defence system that they intended to transfer to Ukraine, Trump said on Monday.
Other Soviet-designed air defence systems that Greece could deliver to Ukraine include the Tor-M1 and Osa-AKM, provided that sufficient US-made replacements could be shipped to Athens. If those platforms go to Ukraine and an American Patriot is deployed to Crete, it would not be under Greek command.
“We are talking about deployment, not purchase, which means that the Patriot system will be under the control of the US military,” Panagiotopoulos explained.
Even though Ukraine is getting its own PAC-3 Patriot missile battery soon, the Greek S-300 would be a welcome addition to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. The Ukrainian military has plenty of experience with the Russian-made system developed during the Cold War.
How the S-300 got to Greece
Athens first acquired the S-300 PMU1 system following the Cyprus Missile Crisis. The political conflict between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey began in 1997 and lasted until 1998. Cyprus had obtained the weaponry as a deterrent against an attack by Turkey.
Upon the resolution of the conflict in December 1998, the Cypriot government exchanged two S-300 air defence systems held by the Cypriot military for weapons held by the Hellenic Air Force of Greece.
In a compromise between the United States and the intermediaries, the S-300 was finally parked in Crete, and now, almost 25 years later, it could be headed for Ukraine.
The S-300s had also been used by Czechoslovakia, a former member of the Warsaw Pact, which ceded the systems to independent Slovakia in 1993. Those weapons were later donated to Ukraine earlier this year.
Even though the S-300s were used in East Germany, they were sent back to the Soviet Union in the lead-up to Germany’s reunification in 1990.