Russian naval base expansion in Syria's Tartus 'underway'

Russian naval base expansion in Syria's Tartus 'underway'
In October Russia signed agreements to expand its naval base in Tartus, and make its air base in Hmeimim permanent. Equipment and supplies have started arriving.
2 min read
18 November, 2016
A Russian vessel passes the Bosphorus Straight en route to Tartus [AFP]

The Russian Defence Ministry has begun supplying the Tartus naval base in Syria, the only Russian base in the Mediterranean Sea, with patrol boats and auxiliary equipment necessary for the base’s expansion.

Russia has had a naval base in Tartus since 1977 but in October announced plans to upgrade and expand the existing naval facility as part Moscow’s efforts to expand its military presence abroad.

According to an informed source quoted by Russian news agency “Interfax” on Friday, the equipment transported to Tartus from the Black Sea includes  SPK-46150s, a form of  “floating crane” specialised in lifting heavy loads, and used in offshore construction.

As Russia has entered into its second year of military intervention in Syria, Moscow has increasingly sought to upgrade its military presence in the war-torn country.

In addition to developments in Tartus in October, an open-ended agreement was ratified between Moscow and Damascus to make Hmeimim, located close to Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, Russia’s first permanent airbase in the Middle East.

Located south-east of Latakia, Hmeimim was taken over from the Syrian government and fully repurposed by Russia in mid-2015.

Speaking to The New Arab in October Igor Korothenko, editor of the Russian magazine National Defence, said that the establishment of permanent Russian military bases in Syria served geopolitical purposes in enabling Moscow to counter NATO – an agreement signed by the US, Canada and a plethora of European states in 1949 to provide collective security against the now-defunct Soviet Union.