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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora