According to reports, Russia is sending a couple of warships to Syria “outside of their schedule,” apparently to protect Russian nationals. The ships will go to Tartus, where a Russian naval base resides, and a “large” group of marines are on each cruiser.
“Two major amphibious ships — The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov — are preparing to be dispatched to Tartus outside of their schedule,” Interfax news reported.
The report cites an unidentified naval command officer, but has not been confirmed by the Russian government yet. The report comes hot off the heels of news of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G20 summit in the Mexican resort Los Cabos on Monday. They’re set to talk about tensions regarding Syria and how it affects the U.S.’s relationship with Russia.
The ships are under mission to protect Russian citizens and interests and potentially remove equipment. The ships and crews “are capable, in case of need, to provide security for Russian citizens and remove property from the logistics facility in Tartus,” said the source.
Syria is already a powder keg, with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton warning that the presence of Russian military in the country could “escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”
This report comes off a busy weekend of developments in Syria. The U.S. said Saturday that Syria should stick to its commitments, “including the full implementation of a cease-fire.” The statement also said, “We are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition” called for in two United Nations Security Council resolutions, and “the sooner this transition takes place, the greater the chance of averting a lengthy and bloody civil war.”
The tension between the U.S. and Russia exists because Moscow is Syria’s biggest arms supplier – this is crucial to Russia as it provides their only anchor in middle east diplomacy. On Friday, Anatoly P. Isaykin, general director of Rosoboronexport, Russia’s chief arms exporter, said that the company was shipping defensive missile systems to Syria that could be used to shoot down airplanes or sink ships deployed by the United States or other nations who try to interfere with Syria.
“I would like to say these mechanisms are really a good means of defense, a reliable defense against attacks from the air or sea,” Isaykin said Friday in an interview. “This is not a threat, but whoever is planning an attack should think about this.”