Moscow is using the time up until Russian President Vladimir Putin faces US President Barack Obama across the G20 conference table in Los Cabos, Mexico Sunday, June 17 – or in its corridors – to ship sophisticated arms to Syria able to prevent a no-fly zone and a fleet of warships to the Mediterranean port of Tartus.
While Pentagon sources Friday disclosed the approach of a “small contingent” of Russian warships to Tartus, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources have discovered that heading for the Russian base at this Syrian port is a Russian fleet that includes Ropucha-toad or Project 775 class landing-craft carrying Russian marines. Each craft can carry 250 marine personnel and 500-ton armored vehicles.
And flying overhead are Russian air transports that are touching down at Syrian air bases bearing, according to our sources, a variety of sophisticated munitions for the Syrian army: advanced Russian Pantsyr-S1 anti-air missiles capable of hitting fighter-bombers flying at an altitude of 12 kilometers and cruise missiles; self-propelled medium range anti-air Buk-M2 missiles (NATO codenamed SA-11). They are capable of downing aircraft flying at an altitude of 14 kilometers and Mach 3 speed; and shore-based Bastion anti-ship missiles which can reach vessels sailing 300 kilometers out to sea.
Russia is, in a word, supplying Bashar Assad, his regime and his army, with the very weapons they may need for warding off Western and Arab air efforts to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, while at the same time enabling him to repel seaborne assaults by his foes from the Mediterranean.
Since Syrian units have not been trained in the use of these advanced weapons, they are mostly likely coming with Russian technical teams to operate them – although they would be presented as “instructors.”
The Russians are not trying to conceal their military intervention in Syria in support of the Assad regime.
Friday, June 16, Anatoly P. Isaykin, director of Rosoboronexport (the Russian state arms export authority) said quite openly: I would like to say these mechanisms are really good means of defense, a reliable defense against attacks from air or sea. This is not a threat, but whoever is planning an attack should think about this.” The next day, Saturday, a source in the Russian General Staff told the Itar-Tass government news agency, “Several warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, including large landing ships with marines aboard, are fully prepared to take to the sea in case it is necessary to protect the Russian logistics base in Tartus, Syria, since it is a zone of the Fleet’s responsibility.”
debkafile’s sources in Washington, Moscow and the Persian Gulf expect the Russian and US presidents to get together in the course of the G20 summit for a meeting that will determine whether or not the US and its European and Arab allies go forward with their planned military intervention in Syria.
Agreement between the two presidents on their Syria and Iran policies could arrest this plan, whereas their failure to agree would quicken its pace.