Russia forming permanent force grouping in Syria
Russia has started forming a permanent grouping of forces at the Tartus naval facility and the Hmeymim airbase in Syria, Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said today at a conference call.
"Last week, the supreme commander-in-chief approved the structure and the personnel strength of the Tartus and Hmeymim bases," he recalled. "We have started forming a permanent grouping there," TASS cited Shoigu as saying.
Today, Russia’s Federation Council approved the ratification of an agreement between Russia and Syria on expanding the naval facility near the port city of Tartus, making it a full-fledged naval base. According to the document, Russia’s vessels, including nuclear-powered cruisers, will be allowed to enter Syria’s waters and ports.
On December 11, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin ordered the forces pullout from Syria. Minister Shoigu reported to Putin on December 22 that his order on the forces pullout from Syria had been fulfilled. Three military police battalions, the Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Sides and Russia’s bases at Tartus and Hmeymim will remain in Syria.
The President of the National Strategy Institute, Mikhail Remizov, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that Russia's permanent force grouping in Syria's Tartus and Hmeymim will be addressing several tasks. "The first task is political, that is, preserving Russia's presence and ensuring our interests in the region. Also, the bases will serve as a safety mechanism for the political regime in Syria, which is friendly for us. Such a permanent base of the Russian Armed Forces can be very important in order to complicate options for external intervention in the Syrian process," he pointed out.
At the same time, Mikhail Remizov stressed that Russia should not just spend money for the maintenance of the base, but also earn on its presence in the region. "We should start realizing our economic interests, including transit, the development of infrastructure projects, oil and gas production, etc. It would be wrong if Russia behaves like the Soviet Union and spend money on spheres of influence, rather than gain from them. The naval base will also ensure the logistics of our navy and its presence in the Mediterranean, and this is an incentive for developing the fleet's operational capacity," the President of the National Strategy Institute said, adding that with these bases Russia will be able to significantly influence the situation, if there is a new round of military and political confrontation, as well as block unfavorable transit projects directly or indirectly.
The editor-in-chief of 'National Defense' magazine, Igor Korotchenko, also pointed to the possibility of strengthening Russia's military presence in the Middle East. "First of all, our bases will fix the irreversibility of the defeat of ISIS and will allow us to react quickly if the situation worsens. They will also become a factor in ensuring Russia's military interests in the region. We will be able to control the whole of North Africa, the entire Middle East, the Mediterranean and the southern flank of NATO with these bases. The use of these two military bases give us a unique opportunity in terms of responding to security threat," he explained.
"At the same time, military capabilities grow into geopolitical ones. The bases will increase Russia's influence and become a demonstration that it has become one of the world's leading military powers. In addition, our military victory in Syria should bring us certain material dividends, and these bases are such dividend, at least, for the next 50 years," Igor Korotchenko concluded.