News / Middle East

Russian Warships Steam to Syria

A Turkish Navy cost guard boat (L) escorts the Russian Navy destroyer Smetlivy, in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, July 11, 2012.
A Turkish Navy cost guard boat (L) escorts the Russian Navy destroyer Smetlivy, in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, July 11, 2012.
James Brooke
MOSCOW — Two Russian Navy ships entered the eastern Mediterranean Wednesday, steaming toward a Russian Navy base at Tartus, Syria. The ships are advance units of a flotilla of 11 warships - one destroyer, five amphibious landing ships, two patrol frigates, two rescue tugs, and one tanker. Several ships carry units of Russian Marines.
 
It is to be the largest display of Russian naval power in the Mediterranean since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago.  And in case the world misses the message, Russia television is broadcasting images of warship after warship steaming out of bases in the Arctic, Baltic and Black seas.

'Sending the message'
 
In Moscow, Yevgeny Michenko, director of the International Institute for Policies Expertise, says the Kremlin is sending the message that it does not want to see in Syria the kind of Western-led regime change that took place last year in Libya.
 
“Russia has a crystal clear position," he said in an interview. "It means that Russia does not want to support changes of the Syrian president, and Russia doesn't support any kind of military operation like it was in Libya.”
 
At a military air show near London, Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, a deputy director of Russia’s Military-Technical Cooperation Service, told reporters that the Russian ships could be used to prevent a Western blockade of Syria.
 
He said that Russia will fulfill existing contracts to deliver to Syria refurbished helicopters, new air defense systems and spare parts for weapons. He said that no Russian military specialists are now in Syria helping Syria’s army.
 
But two weeks ago, when Syrian forces used Russian-made missiles to shoot down a Turkish fighter jet, Russian military sources in Moscow gave reporters highly detailed information on the jet’s flight path over the eastern Mediterranean.
 
Other analysts say Russia’s amphibious ships could be used to evacuate the large numbers of Russian civilians who live in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, welcomes a delegation headed by a leader of the Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, right, in Moscow, Russia, July 11, 2012.Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, welcomes a delegation headed by a leader of the Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, right, in Moscow, Russia, July 11, 2012.
x
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, welcomes a delegation headed by a leader of the Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, right, in Moscow, Russia, July 11, 2012.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, welcomes a delegation headed by a leader of the Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, right, in Moscow, Russia, July 11, 2012.
Power broker
 
In Moscow, the Kremlin’s ambition to play a power broker in Syria was further underlined Wednesday when Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with the second opposition group to visit Moscow this week.
 
Lavrov urged the visiting Syrians to unite into one opposition group.  He said that Moscow wants "to understand how great the prospects are, and how stable the prospect is, for unification of all opposition groups on the platform of dialogue with the government."

But after the meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, leaders of the Syrian National Council chose not to be diplomatic.

 "Let us be honest," Burhan Ghalioun, a member of the Council Executive Committee told reporters. "We must not hide from the truth. Without Russia's political, cultural, moral and military support, the Syrian regime would not have been able to continue its policy targeted against the Syrian people."
 
He noted that Russia has twice used its veto in the United Nations Security Council to kill measures that would have pressured Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "The Syrian people can't understand Russian politics," he said. "How can our friends continue to hand over weapons to that regime, how can they veto in the Security Council?"

Michenko, of the Research Institute, said the Russian Navy presence might pressure the Syrian opposition to negotiate with the Assad government.

“Maybe if we will hold the status quo for a few months, maybe the demands of the Syrian opposition will be more realistic," he said."Maybe when they understand that there is no Libyan scenario, it will be a way for negotiations, for real negotiations.”

Military analysts predict that the Russian Navy battle group will stay near Syria until early September. At that time, several landing ships are expected to return to the Black Sea to participate in annual exercises near Georgia. Four years ago, that former Soviet Republic was briefly invaded by Russian soldiers.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs