How can Russian Navy help Syria?
Searching for new possibilities
At present, there are 10 Russian navy ships and several submarines (the exact number has not been revealed) in the Mediterranean Sea. There has never been such a large concentration of Russian navy forces in the region since 1992, when, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Soviet Mediterranean navy squadron was disbanded.
Russia concentrated its forces there not only to show how strong it can be. The threat of war in Syria is demanding that Russia should be ready for a quick and adequate reaction.
7 of the 10 Russian ships are large landing ships, of them, 2 belong to the Russian Pacific fleet, 2 to the Baltic, and 3 to the Black Sea fleets. Some have been in the open sea for quite a long time, the ship “Alexander Shibalin” left the Russian port of Baltiysk in December 2012.
There are several reasons why Russia has concentrated its large landing ships near Syria. One being that the ships are helping to create an unhampered channel for supplying Syria's legitimate government with arms to fight terrorists. Such a strong presence of Russian forces in the region is minimizing the possibility of new incidents like the one that took place in the summer of 2012, when the Russian cargo ship “Aloed”, that was carrying helicopters for the Syrian regime, was stopped on its way to Syria.
The second explanation for the Russian ships being on duty in Syrian waters is that these ships, if necessary, will be used to evacuate Russian citizens; those who live in Syria and any who are travelling on business.
Not only monitoring
It is expected that in the coming few days, the flotilla will be joined by the Russian missile cruiser “Moskva”, which, has been carrying out various tasks in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. “Moskva” will be the “nucleus” of the Russian squadron, because it has powerful radio location capabilities and a long-range missile system.
“Moskva's” reconnaissance system can generate such a wide radio location field that it is able to cover the entire Mediterranean Sea. If the cruiser's reconnaissance systems “notice” American missiles approaching Syria, they will immediately signal about that both to Moscow and to Damascus.
However, the abilities of the Russian squadron, though wide, are still limited. Although the vessels making up the squadron are military ships, they are intended to be used mainly for transporting cargo and people. Ships of this type cannot be used as “full-fledged” landing ships able to provide a long-term presence with an aircraft coverage in the region. This would be possible if the Russian squadron included one or two landing ships of the “Mistral” type but the vessel which is expected to be Russia's flagship of the Mystral class, called “Vladivistok”, is still being built in the French port of Saint-Nazaire.
An aircraft carrier would have made the Russian squadron even stronger, but it is expected that Russia's only aircraft carrier will appear in the Mediterranean Sea in December 2013. The building of more aircraft carriers is currently being discussed in Russia.