Ships, headed by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, will set off on a long trip in December. For some time, it will stop in the Syrian port of Tartus, where a Russian navy base is situated.
Russian army commanders deny that this plan has any political character. However, experts say that the presence of Russian navy ships in the region can make some people in the West, who are insisting that Syria’s current president Bashar al-Assad must be ousted by any means, even by force if there is no other way, think twice.
According to the Russian military, this journey is part of the maneuvers which have been planned long ago. In November, the crews of these ships held several missile and artillery shootings, and Admiral Kuznetsov took a group of fighter planes and helicopters on board.
In an interview to the Voice of Russia, a spokesman for the Russian Western military district Vadim Serga assured the interviewer that all the information about this trip will be available to journalists. However, Mr. Serga refused to answer what the aim of this trip is.
The base in Tartus is the only Russian navy base which is situated neither in Russia nor in any of the former Soviet states. It is used by the Russian Black Sea fleet. However, there are no Russian ships at this base at present.
Recently, a group of US navy ships appeared near Syria’s coast. One of them is a nuclear aircraft carrier of the latest generation, named “George Bush”.
However, the Russian military deny that the sending of Russian ships to Tartus is Russia’s answer to the US presence in the region, for the trip was planned back in 2010, even before the beginning of the current unrest in Syria. Still, whatever Russia’s plans initially were, in the current situation, the presence of Russian ships near Syria’s coast may hamper the US’s plans to interfere in the Syrian revolution with force.
Interviewed by the Voice of Russia, political observer Vladimir Evseev said:
“The appearance of the Russian ships near Syria’s Mediterranean coast, whatever Russia’s plans really are, will surely be taken by the West as Russia’s attempt to stop the US from starting a military operation in Syria. At least, with the presence of an aircraft carrier like Admiral Kuiznetsov in the region, the US will hardly dare to start an operation at sea.”
“Speaking about the Syrian uprising,” Mr. Evseev continues, “… well, I won’t even call it a revolution, for the group which started it is not backed by the majority of Syrians. I’m sure that if democratic elections were now held in Syria, these oppositionists woudln’t get the majority of votes. The oppositionists themselves realize quite well that their chances to come to power in a democratic way are small and that their only chance is to try to seize power by force. However, we have reliable information that opponents of President Assad in Syria are backed by Turkey, France and some other countries.”
“If it becomes necessary, Russian ships may start to constantly watch Syria’s coast,” Vladimir Evseev adds.
Russia’s authorities rule out any use of force by the Russian fleet against the American one. However, even a peaceful presence of the two fleets in the region may aggravate relations between Russia and the US.
Russian military expert Victor Baranets says:
“Russia’s view on the situation in Syria is different from the position of the US and NATO, and Russian and US diplomats have already exchanged some prickly statements about this. The situation is already rather aggravated. However, there are signs that in Syria itself, both the government and the opposition are starting to realize that the only way to settle the conflict is peaceful negotiations. If Russian ships come to the region, it may give both the Syrian opposition and the US military another reason to think twice before using force.”
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will be accompanied by the submarine chaser Admiral Chabanenko. Later, the escort vessel Ladny will join them. Besides maneuvers on water, it is also planned to hold flights of the deck-based aircraft. However, the maneuvers will be held at a rather long distance from Syria’s coast.