Home » Aviation » Russia, Syria Agree on Mediterranean Naval Base Expansion, Refit of Syrian Ships

Russia, Syria Agree on Mediterranean Naval Base Expansion, Refit of Syrian Ships

Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser makes port call in Tartus, Syria. Sputnik Photo

Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser makes port call in Tartus, Syria. Sputnik Photo

Russia and Syria have signed an agreement this week to expand Russia’s sole foreign base – a naval repair facility in Syria – into a larger naval base capable of permanently hosting 11 ships, according to the agreement issued by the Russian government.

The agreement — signed on Wednesday – would allow the Tartus installation to expand to berth larger surface combatants and submarines, according to Russian state-controlled press reports.

“The deal stipulates that 11 Russian vessels can be present in the harbor of Tartus at once, including the ships equipped with nuclear marine propulsion, provided that nuclear and environmental safety guidelines are respected,” read a report in the Kremlin-controlled Sputnik wire.
“Russia promises to send to Syria, at its request, specialists to help restore Syrian warships and will help organize the defense of the harbor of Tartus and help mount search and rescue operations in Syrian waters.”

Russia has held the facility on the Eastern Mediterranean since the early 1970s as a logistics and maintenance hub, and the site has been a key hub in Russia’s support for embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“This agreement is an example of the rewards Russia is beginning to reap from having played a major role keeping the Syrian regime in power. The planned upgrades at Tartus will no doubt turn the base into an even more important naval and military facility for Russia in the future,” Eric Wertheim, author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World, told USNI News on Friday.
“This is also the latest sign of Russia’s intention to increase and project its presence in the region, commensurate with its efforts to expand its naval and military power.”
While the Russian press stressed the expansion installation on Tartus would support the fight against Islamic terrorism, the permanent presence of Russian Navy assets in the Mediterranean is part of an ongoing campaign to project Moscow’s military power, Andrey Krasov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee, told the TASS news wire.

“Russia needs this base to be present in this region… Unlike NATO, the Russian Federation is the guarantor of security in the world,” he said.
“In Syria, we fight against international terrorism not only by words, but also by deeds. Both Russian Aerospace Defense Forces and Russian Navy’s ship groups demonstrate their professionalism, high qualifications in supporting the Syrian Armed Forces in the fight against terrorism.”

The U.S. has as well reinvigorated its presence in the region by stationing four ballistic missile defense-capable guided-missile destroyers at Naval Station Rota, Spain. The quartet of ships has often patrolled the Black Sea since the 2014 seizure of Crimea by Russian forces.

  • aztec69

    What’s the big deal? We’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. Bases come and bases go as the needs of naval powers change. The British Empire was based on its trade and a navy to protect that trade. To keep that navy where needed a series of naval bases were scattered around the world, a coal-load apart. In times those bases became colonies and today many of them are members of the Commonwealth. But, where needed the Brits still have their bases: Cyprus and Belize are two good examples. The US also has a string of bases that followed its trade and a navy to protect it. But it seems we have a harder time of letting go: Guantanamo, Subic, Cam Ranh Bay, Yokosuka and Diego Garcia all come to mind. The Russians are back in Sevastapol. No worries. But start to worry when they decide to move back into Bakalava.

    • Jason Rogers

      What in heaven’s name does your comment have to do with this post? This is a post about a Russian base in Syria and you ramble on about US and British bases, as if Russia is worth discussing only in relation to, or to the extent that it serves as a foil of, the US and UK. Pathetic.

      • aztec69

        I thought the connection was obvious, “If you’ve seen one base, you’ve seen them all.” What Russia is doing in Syria is nothing more or less than what other naval powers have done through history. Although apparently Mr. Trump has little or no knowledge of American history (his words, not mine) I’m sure Mr. Putin is well aware of Russia’s history. That difference may be critical in the months and years ahead.

    • El_Sid

      It’s a big deal because it’s the first major base outside Russian territory. Given that you can view the whole of Russian history as an eternal search to obtain and sustain ice-free ports then finally getting one on the Mediterranean is a really big deal from their point of view. In turn that makes it a big deal for NATO, much of whose strategy relied on bottling up the Russian fleet behind the Bosphorus. In particular it makes it a lot more difficult for NATO if Russia can base SSKs in the Mediterranean, not far from Suez. It’s also a great location for intelligence gathering on Incirlik, Akrotiri, Israel and the Eastern Med in general.

      • aztec69

        You forgot the word naval in your first sentence 🙂 Since the Russian fleet was Balticentric for years and then oriented toward the Barents bastion for most of the Cold War it didn’t really didn’t need foreign bases. The combination of a resurgent Russian Navy and a declining NATO naval force in the Mediterranean has made the the Russian move to fill the vacuum inevitable. Since our bases in Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel are designed to gather info on the Russians, et al. it doesn’t seem illogical that they would be keeping an eye on those who are keeping an eye on them. All that said, I don’t disagree with the thrust of what you said. It’s good to discuss these things to let those who are watching those who are watching us know we are watching them. I also urge readers of the USNI news site to check out RT, Sputnik, the various Chinese sites, etc.not because they are telling the truth necessarily but because it is important that we keep informed of what they are telling those who don’t have access to all the information we (I hope) do.

        • El_Sid

          Fair enough on naval, I thought that could be taken as read on this site!

          But really the Soviet Union, and the Gorshkov era in particular, was a bit of an aberration in Russian history going back to Ivan the Terrible. Taking control of Crimea was just a natural extension of that long history, Tartrus is just the next step that gets round the bottleneck of the Bosphorus.

          The bottom line is does an expansion of operations at Tartus, particularly if it includes sub facilities, make life easier or more difficult for NATO in the Med, and the answer is clearly the latter even if we’re all lovey-dovey at the moment.

          • aztec69

            Gorshkov was one of my heroes when I was an AFROTC cadet in the 60s. That got me into a lot of trouble in San Diego 🙂 Well, if you look at the long history of Russia you (or anyone reading this who hasn’t) need to read the Chronicles of Vladimir to really understand this all goes back a thousand years or so.

            Not to change the subject but did you see the PLAN finally retired Wu (their equivalent to Gorshkov)? His replacement confirms my theory (going back years now) that the SCS/Hainan Island/Sanya Bay are China’s “Bosphorus pressure point.” Or perhaps I should compare it to Honolulu/Pearl Harbor. Sigh. We never learn, I write that looking at my 60 year collection of USNI Proceedings that nobody wants. LOL.

    • J Urie


    • Glorious_Cause

      It’s a big deal because Russia is run by a dictator. It’s a big deal because Russia supports a man who drops chemical-weapons-laced barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods.

      Educate yourself.

      • aztec69

        That’s what I have you for. So educate me. I’m dieing to learn from one who obviously knows it all.

  • RobM1981

    The Russian Federation is the guarantor of security for the world?

    I did not know that. News to me…

  • graylens

    President Obama laid out the red carpet to the Russians to establish a major presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Obama crossed the historic redline and undid hundreds of years of effort to keep a strong Russian presence away from the Mideast

    • Glorious_Cause

      Exactly. And now we have a Russian puppet in the White House. The American electorate has royally screwed.

  • Donald Carey

    Like many things Middle Eastern, I see an ever-expanding money pit, ready to suck in all the rubles it can get. Let us not forget, Radical Islam hates Russia. The only reason they hate us more is because they (rightly), fear the effect Western ideas could have on their women.

  • Glorious_Cause

    “Unlike NATO, the Russian Federation is the guarantor of security in the world,””

    Vodka, folks. Vodka

  • Glorious_Cause

    Go talk to the people of Aleppo about your glorious Syrian government. That is if you can find any left. Google “barrel bombs” and get back to us.