In a previous article this author laid out the dimensions and capabilities in Russia’s expanding network of air and naval bases in and around the Middle East.
Recently, Moscow took another significant step towards the consolidation and extension of its naval capabilities in the Mediterranean.
Moscow announced that over the next 2-3 years it would be building a full naval base at Tartus in Syria, which it now has under lease (along with the air base at Khmeinim) for 49 years. That base, when completed, will be able to accommodate 11 ships at a time and host nuclear-powered ships as well. In this connection Moscow also reiterated that its Mediterranean Squadron (Eskadra) would constitute a permanently deployed element of the Russian fleet.
Ultimately Moscow aspires to possess the capability to integrate this network of air and naval bases throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean (and Tartus is by no means the only one located on that sea) to form a genuine reconnaissance-strike complex.
“Former chief of staff of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, told Interfax that the expanded base would contribute to the navy’s “operative capabilities” in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East as a whole.”[i]
The base is part of an evolving capability not only be able to project power into the Middle East as a whole, including key strategic waterways or against our allies, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, but also to Southern and Southeastern Europe, most of whose states are NATO allies.
While ostensibly the base and the ships stationed there are there to frustrate attempted terrorist attacks, including amphibious landings, in reality the main mission is to thwart NATO efforts to dominate the Mediterranean and enter into the Black Sea during times of conflict.