As a follow up to a story reported on last week of a buildup of military forces in Jordan and the entire region surrounding Syria, it was reported this week by the Russian Defense Ministry that the Russian Federation's naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea would now be permanent.
According to the ministry's press service, the operational force will be comprised of about 10 warships from Northern, Black Sea and Baltic fleets, as well as occasionally from the Pacific Fleet, and that the number of warships could be increased if the situation required it. The naval group will consist of cruisers, anti-submarine ships, patrol boats, landing ships and auxiliary vessels. The operational force will "implement tasks to protect Russian national interests in the Mediterranean and beyond. Listeners are reminded that the only Russian naval installation in the region has for decades been the maintenance facility in the Syrian city of Tartus.
Additionally, it was announced this week that Russia will deploy its only heavy aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, to the Mediterranean. The vessel carries Su-33 sea-based multirole fighters and will join the permanent task force.
Further, CNN reports a Pentagon official stated that US intelligence agencies have identified three Russian amphibious warships in the eastern Mediterranean which may be carrying weapons shipments to re-supply the Syrian army. Although this is not confirmed, the containers aboard the ships are suspected of carrying components of the Russian S-300 air defense missiles for the Assad regime.
If you are beginning to think the Eastern Med is getting a little crowded, just wait. There is more.
Also present is Iran's 24th Fleet, currently in the Mediterranean to convey a QUOTE “message of peace.” Additionally, China has also been increasing its involvement in the area, with the country’s warships recently sailing through the Suez Canal. Other major naval groups serving in the Mediterranean Sea include NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, the French Naval Action Force, and the US Navy 6th Fleet.
All this is taking place while, as reported last week, there are 15,000 troops from 18 different countries gathered in Jordan for the Eager Lion 2013 exercise as well as training for possible action in Syria.
And in a final note on these developments, late this week Austria announced it was pulling all of 350+ UN peacekeeping troops out of the Golan Heights, or roughly 1/3rd of the entire peacekeeping force, due to a spillover of the Syrian civil war. Soon thereafter Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to send it's own troops in as a replacement.
AlertsUSA continues to monitor the situation in the region and will immediately notify subscribers of dangerous developments as events warrant.