Once more, Syria has called on its Russian ally to expand in the Middle East, by expanding its small pier in the city of Tartus and turning it into a base. This has coincided with Saudi Arabia leading a coalition against Ansar Allah in Yemen, with a cover by the United States. A few hours separated the two events, particularly since Damascus was surprised by the speed of the military developments in Yemen.
In a meeting with a group of Russian journalists March 27, and in response to a question on Damascus’ desire to see a wider Russian activity in the Middle East, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he certainly welcomes “any expansion of Russian presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, precisely on the Syrian shores and ports.”
Assad said: “The Russian presence in different parts of the world, including the Eastern Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus, is very necessary, in order to create a sort of balance, which the world has lost after the dissolution of the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago.”
The Syrian president welcomed the Russian presence in his country and the region. “For us, the stronger this presence is in our region, the better it is for stability [in the region], because Russia is assuming an important role in world stability,” he said.
Although the statements have coincided with the coalition’s aggression on Yemen, the Syrian nod is only a repetition of a former call made under the rule of late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, who saw that the presence of a Russian military representation in Syria in the Mediterranean region contributes to the promotion of the idea of “the balance of terror” against Israel and the United States.
Two days ago, a Russian military official confirmed that this issue requires a decision issued by the high command. Russian websites quoted a source from the Russian Naval General Staff as saying that “any decision to modernize the infrastructure of the Russian Material-Technical Support Point in Tartus can only be made after a political decision is taken in this regard, in coordination with the Syrian side.” He explained that any modernization should “take into account the political and military situation in the Mediterranean region,” and therefore “it will include the promotion of all sorts of protection in the facility, including surface-to-air missiles and anti-riots weapons, and will be in coordination with the Syrian side.”
Full article: Syria keen on Russian expansion in Middle East (Al Monitor)