Syria-Russia: Update. This week, the New York Times reported that Russia is delivering not only the S-300 advanced air defense missile systems to Syria, but also Yakhont “ship killer” missiles, which would make it a lot more painful for any foreign navies trying to intervene in Syria or provide supplies to the rebels by sea
In 2007, the two countries signed a contract for 72 Yakhont missiles which are supersonic and have a range of about 200 miles. Some missiles were delivered in 2011 but the Russians have not said how many remain to be provided. They are among the most deadly anti-ship missiles in the world.
Comment: Details about the S-300 system delivery remain undisclosed, including whether Russians will install and operate it. A member of the Russian parliament confirmed the Russians consider the Yakhont delivery a part of a longstanding weapons contract. The effect of these deliveries is to deter a UN resolution approving creation of a no-fly zone in Syria, as occurred in Libya which evolved into a NATO air combat campaign with limited ground intervention.
Russia: Russian navy ships from the Pacific Fleet entered the Mediterranean Sea for the first time in decades this week. The task group includes the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, two amphibious warfare ships Peresvet and Admiral Nevelskoi, as well as a tanker and a tugboat.
“The task force has successfully passed through the Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean. It is the first time in decades that Pacific Fleet warships have entered this region,” the Pacific Fleet spokesman, Captain First Rank Roman Martov told RIA Novosti. Their next port of call is Limassol, Cyprus.
According to the Russian Today, the ships departed Vladivostok on 19 March to join Russia’s Mediterranean task force, which currently consists of vessels from Northern, Baltic, and the Black Sea Fleets. The ships include a large anti-submarine ship, a frigate and a Ropucha-II Class landing ship.
Russian Navy Commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov on Sunday announced plans for the Mediterranean task force and said that it may “possibly” be enlarged to include nuclear submarines. “Overall, already from this year, we plan to have five or six warships and support vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, which will be replaced on a rotating basis from each of the fleets. Depending on the scope of assignments and their complexity, the number of warships in the task force may be increased,” Chirkov said.
Comment: This week senior Russian officials have made clear that they will not allow NATO to repeat in Syria what occurred in Libya – the expansion of a no-fly zone to an air-supported ground intervention. One analyst judged that President Putin felt deceived by NATO and will not let that happen again. That explains the naval reinforcement and the supply of advanced weapons to the Syrian government forces.
While NATO and the Arab monarchs have dithered, the Russians made their decision to stand by Syria long before March.