The PJ Tatler

Is Russia's Military Setting Up Shop in the Middle East?


Russian Navy can carry out missile strikes on the Islamic State positions in Syria at any moment, if ordered by the high command, the Russian General Staff said Friday.

The Russian warships operating in the Mediterranean can be used in the fight against ISIL in Syria, if need be, Colonel-General Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, said in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

“Our group in the Mediterranean primarily supplies materials. For this to go unhampered, a group of attack vessels is deployed there as well. In addition, this group guarantees our base’s air defense. We are in no way using these air defense systems against coalition countries,” he said.

The Russian General Staff does not rule out the establishment of a military base in Syria consisting of naval, air, and ground troop components, Kartapolov said.

Russia’s growing military presence in the region doesn’t just have Israel concerned. According to NATO General Philip Breedlove:

The Pentagon says Russia has sent at least 500 troops, along with fighter jets, artillery units, tanks and other military hardware to an airbase in the Latakia region on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.

Breedlove suggested the weaponry included SA15 and SA22 surface-to-air missile defense systems, used to take down enemy planes.

“I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA15s or SA22s,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the IS group.

In another report, Breedlove was quoted:

“These very sophisticated air defense capabilities are not about ISIL, they’re about something else. High on Mr. Putin’s list in Syria is preserving the regime against those that are putting pressure on the regime and against those that they see who might be supporting those putting pressure on the regime,” he said.

Breedlove said he also was concerned about Russia developing a defensive “bubble” of so-called anti-access, area-denial (A2AD) anti-ship and anti-air missiles around the naval base of Tartus that Russia has maintained in northeastern Syria for decades.

“It’s one of the things we are beginning to watch (them) develop in the northeast Mediterranean as we see thesevery capable air defense capabilities beginning to show up in Syria,” Breedlove said. “We are a little worried about another A2AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean.”