Russia will start construction on a planned five-year expansion of its naval base in Syria this spring, officials said in Russian state media.
Viktor Ozerov — the head of the Russian Federation Council’s defense committee – said planning work was underway to start the expansion of the Russian logistics hub in Tartus, Syria into a full-fledged naval base capable of supporting 11 ships.
“The survey works were launched, including those, connected in particular with the construction of a pipeline for fuel. We have started to prepare documents and Syrian companies will carry out a number of [modernization] works. We have started to reinforce quay walls and reconstruct temporary facilities of security services into permanent ones,” Ozerov told state-controlled newswire Sputnik.
In January, the Kremlin announced a deal with the government of Bashar al-Assad to kick off the base expansion.
“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 January report in Sputnik.
The Russians have operated the installation in Tartus since 1971 and it has served as a key logistics hub for the Navy during their fight against ISIS in support of the al-Assad regime.
The expansion will to much to extend Russian influence in the Mediterranean and beyond into the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
In the last year, the Russian Navy has operated off the coast of Syria. In November, the Russian Navy sent a carrier strike group to assist in the taking of Aleppo by pro Al-Assad forces.
The Kremlin’s military aid to the government in Damascus is one example of why the base is expanding, one analyst told USNI News.
“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 in January.
“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.”