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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid