MOSCOW – Signaling Russia’s intention to maintain a high-profile role in Syria despite its partial military withdrawal, President Vladimir
Putin warned Thursday that Moscow could still build up its forces within “a few hours” if needed and will continue helping the Syrian army fight extremist groups.
Putin, who recalled some of Russia’s warplanes from Syria earlier this week, said Moscow will keep enough forces there to continue the fight against the Islamic State group, the Nusra Front and other extremist organizations. It will also continue to boost the Syrian military with weapons, training and operational guidance. In an apparent warning to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others who had talked about the possibility of sending troops into Syria, Putin also emphasized that the Russian military will keep all its air defense missile systems, including the powerful S-400s, at its air base in Syria. It will stand ready to use them “against any targets that we would consider a threat to our servicemen,” he said.