Kremlin ‘Suspends’ Use of Tartus Naval Base in Syria (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia)
Could it be that the unending stream of reports of a Russian military buildup in Syria – specifically at Russia’s Tartus naval facility – are false? Quoting sources in Russia’s Defense Ministry and Russian officials – not all of who appear happy about the policy, Nezavisimaya Gazeta columnist Vladimir Mukhin writes that not only is use of the naval base being ‘suspended,’ but Russian naval ships in the area are leaving or gone, and there are no major arms shipments headed to Syria from Russia.
In an article at variance with just about every Western and Israeli news gathering organization, for the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin starts off this way:
Russia has suspended use of its naval base in Tartus, Syria. But it refuses to rule out using it in the future. In addition, the central principles of cooperation with Damascus in the military sphere have been set: Moscow will support the Assad regime primarily at the political level, intelligence and humanitarian spheres. There are no large weapons shipments planned. Nezavisimaya Gazeta obtained these reports from military and diplomatic sources who participated in recent talks with Syria’s official delegation, which visited Moscow earlier in the week.
Thus it has now become clear why naval groups from the three fleets (Northern, Baltic and Black Sea) that had gathered in the Mediterranean unexpectedly broke up, and the General Staff has changed its plans to base the Northern Fleet in the Black Sea.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, there is still a chance of achieving Syrian national reconciliation, and therefore given the circumstances, military support for the Assad regime is not the main objective. In contrast to the West, which has begun actively arming the opposition, Russia has deliberately withdrawn practically all of its military forces from the Mediterranean.
Interestingly and perhaps tellingly, later on in the report, Mukhin quotes an anonymous Defense Ministry source:
After the exercise and being resupplied, the ships could have continued to duty in the Mediterranean. Not anymore. Naval groups from the NATO countries are already concentrated off the Syrian coast. The concentration of Russian ships would have been dwarfed by NATO’s.
“Our naval base in Tartus will not support a military option. We cannot physically act militarily against countries supporting the Syrian opposition,” the Defense Ministry source said.
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