Saturday, October 22, 2016

Russia to expand Syrian naval base at Tartus and make it permanent

While Russia has occupied the Tartus naval base in Syria for 45 years now it is nevertheless about to formalize that it is a permanent base and also come to an agreement with the Assad government for a substantial expansion of the base.

Tartus is Russia's only naval base in the Mediterranean. The base is quite limited in size and cannot accommodate larger warships. Russia wants to expand the base. Since the Assad government is very much indebted to Russia for helping it survive, negotiations should not be too difficult. In fact, any Russian expansion of the base will be seen by Assad as a sign of serious commitment to saving his regime. Russia has recently deployed an S-300 anti-aircraft system to the area around the base.
As relations with the U.S. sour, Russia is also apparently considering opening up Soviet era bases in both Vietnam and Cuba. Russia has also talked of opening an airbase in Egypt but Egyptian officials deny it will agree to any such base. However, Russia appears to be developing cordial relations with Egypt's el-Sisi government, and also with Khalifa Haftar of the rival HoR government of Libya. Russian paratroops will take part in war games with Egyptian paratroopers in Egypt this month.
Senator Igor Morozov of the senate International Affairs Committee said of the agreement to expand Tartus and make it permanent: "By doing this Russia is not only increasing its military potential in Syria but in the entire Middle East." Russia seems to be planning to expand its military presence globally. The state-owned newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta said Russia wants bases also in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Seychelles and Singapore as well. As relations with the U.S. heat up, Russia has also moved nuclear-capable missiles to its EU enclave of Kaliningrad.
Moscow already has a permanent airbase in Syria. The Tartus naval base was inherited from the USSR when it collapsed in 1991. As well as being expanded, the base will be equipped with anti-submarine defenses and new electronics systems

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