Vladimir Putin will be re-anointed President of Russia at a ceremonial handover of office in the Kremlin Monday, May 7, He will take over from Dmitry Medvedev who moves down to the post of prime minister.
As president, Medvedev enjoyed a measure of freedom from the restraints of the powerful Putin and during his tenure there was an easing in the climate of Russian relations with the United States. This contrasted sharply with the frictions with Washington and enhanced Russo-Iranian dialogue in 2007-2008 which marked Putin’s two stints as president.
Still, although Prime Minister Putin insisted that foreign policy was the province of the president, there was always the sense that the former and future president lurked powerfully behind the Medvedev presidency.
Another view on the arcane power structure in the Kremlin holds that neither Putin nor Medvedev are omnipotent, certainly not on loaded issues like Iran’s nuclear program and the turbulence in Syria, for which decision-making is attended by a team of diplomats and intelligence figures.
Prominent in this team are the influential presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Intelligence Chief Mikhail Fradkov, and others.
But while the West is trying to second guess Russia’s future policy for Iran and Syria, Moscow and the Russian military appear to be collecting themselves for a clash of arms in the Persian Gulf in aniticipation of the US and Israel launching an offensive on Iran with GCC ground, naval and air forces and air forces taking part.
Russia upgrades military alerts for US-Israel strike on Iran
Moscow fears this eruption of hostilities will have a knock-on effect on Russia’s national security. And so its military units in the Caucasus have been upgraded and the Caspian Sea fleet of missile cruisers anchored off the coast of Dagestan placed on the ready. The Russian base in Armenia, its only facility in the South Caucasus, is also on alert.
In a commentary published in April, Gen. Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Science, wrote, “A war against Iran would be a war against Russia.” He called for a “political-diplomatic alliance” to be forged with China and India. Operations were underway throughout the Middle East to destabilize the region and “proceed against China, Russia and Europe.”
The war against Iran, Ivashov wrote, would “end up at our borders, destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus and weaken our position in the Caspian region.”
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report that, opposite US military concentrations on the Yemeni island of Socotra and Masirah Island off Oman, the Russians are engaged in their own military buildup for war at their 102nd Military Base in Gyumri, Armenia, where two divisions of the Russian Special Forces-Spetsnaz are stationed. This base is a component of the Russian Transcaucasian Group of Forces.
Russian forces geared for intervention
Gyumri is the capital and largest city of the Shirak Province in northwest Armenia. It is located about 120 km from Yerevan. Of critical concern for Moscow is the effect on the South Caucasus of a war against Iran. Armenia, the Kremlin’s only ally in this region, has close economic links with Iran, whereas neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan maintain military and economic ties with the United States and Israel.
Most of all, Moscow fears Azerbaijan, which shares borders with Iran, Russia, Armenia and the Caspian Sea, may line up with Israel and the United States for the war against Iran. Since the mid-1990s, this republic has been an important American military and economic ally in the South Caucasus, hosting several US military bases.
Putin is therefore assuming the presidency with a Russian military already geared up for possible military intervention in the Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Caucasus regions – just in case he decides that a US-Israeli attack on Iran imperils Moscow’s interests in the area.