Russian warships docked at a naval base in Syria, according to reports on Wednesday, further separating Moscow from Western actions in the war-torn country.
The two ships made a rare call at the port in Tartus, Russia’s only remaining international military base since the Soviet Union collapsed, according to AFP and Interfax reports. Russian authorities claim the stop was only to load fuel and water and make “minor repairs.” This is the second time the Russian Navy has raised eyebrows in recent weeks, following reports that it docked warships off the coast of Gaza in late November, during the height of the fighting there with Israel.
The presence of the navy ships has three purposes, says Michael Weiss, cochair of the Russian Studies Center at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based foreign policy think tank. Russia wants to run weapons and materiel into Syria, take Russian nationals out of the country, and send a signal to the United States that it still backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“They have military advisers helping the regime — a claim I cannot corroborate but absolutely believe,” Weiss says. “But nonessential diplomatic staff and probably a lot of bi-nationals will leave.”
Turkey has pushed for NATO to supply it with Patriot missiles along its border with Syria to deter regime forces from continuing their aerial and rocket barrages. U.S. News reported Tuesday that Assad, now cut off from forces outside Syria, will likely turn to ground-to-ground missile attacks to try to repel opposition fighters who have surrounded the capital city.
Full article: Russia Docks Warships in Syria as NATO Arms Turkey (US News)