The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that six landing ships arrived in the port of Tartous in western Syria, located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Syrian state media SANA also reported the story. Landing ships are large warships that can transport smaller warships and amphibious vehicles.
The news demonstrated the continued importance of Tartus, which is the only Mediterranean port to which Russia has access. Russia built a naval facility there in 1971, but its presence gained media coverage after the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011. Opposition armed forces eventually entered the neighboring coastal province of Latakia, but the he Russian military intervention in 2015 reversed the trend. of the war in favor of the Syrian government.
Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now control most of the country, and Tartus is in no danger of falling to the rebels.
The port of Tartous has considerable strategic value for Russia to counter the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on its European borders. To this end, Russia wants to create a military threat on NATO’s southern flank in the Mediterranean from Tartous, Anton Mardasov wrote in Al-Monitor in December. NATO members Turkey, Greece and Italy are positioned above Syria in the eastern part of the sea.
Some analysts in Washington agree.
“The main justification for Russia’s return to the region has been the prospect of military confrontation in the European theater and concerns about the vulnerability of its southern flank in a conflict with NATO,” reads a report. of May from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The Kremlin may one day aspire to dominate the Mediterranean, but for now its goal is to deny NATO that option.”
Beyond geopolitical and security considerations, Tartus is also an important economic asset for Russia. Last month, the Crimean seaports under Russian control signed an economic cooperation agreement with the port of Tartus. Syria’s trade minister traveled to the Black Sea to facilitate the deal.
Last June, a Russian official said he wanted to upgrade the port of Tartous to facilitate Syrian imports and exports, the official TASS news agency reported. Syria is economically dependent on Russia partly because of US sanctions against Syria.
Russia is currently working to expand the Tartus naval facility. Last year, the Russian army began building a floating dock there. It is a dock that can be flooded with water or dry. Russia expected the wharf to be completed this year.