Russian Navy to resume permanent presence in Mediterranean Sea
From 2015, the Russian navy is expected to resume its permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea, a source in the General Staff told ITAR-TASS. The decision was developed during the naval exercise that became the largest of the past decade. The exercise was held on January 19 - 29 in the Black and Mediterranean seas. The last time, when the Russian Navy took part in the drills in the region, was during the Cold War.
The Black Sea Fleet will make the backbone of the Russian group. "The new task force will be solving routine and suddenly emerging combat missions in the Mediterranean combat theatre. In particular, it will be fending off threats for Russia's national and military security from this direction," said the source.
However, before the group is formed, it will take Russia two or three years to upgrade the ships of the Black Sea Fleet. According to the source, Ukraine has been preventing this so far. During this time, it is planned to create a logistics system.
The Syrian port of Tartus is currently Russia's only naval facility in foreign countries. The 5th Mediterranean Squadron of the Soviet Navy was operating on the basis of the port. The squadron is to become a prototype for the new group. The squadron, whose main enemy was the 6th U.S. Navy operational fleet, was disbanded on December 31, 1992 - a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Officials of the Russian Defence Ministry announced the plans to continue the combat service in the Mediterranean Sea at the end of the exercise, last week. Currently, Russia's Smetliviy vessel remains in the Mediterranean Sea. Large landing ships of the Baltic Fleet - the Kaliningrad and the Alexander Shabalin - and of the Black Sea - the Saratov and Azov - are expected to arrive in the region.
The news of the arrival of the ships made the West believe that Russia was getting ready for the evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria. In connection with that, European officials started to consider the possibility of lifting the embargo on arms supplies to Syrian rebels. Before that West demonstratively ignored the naval drills, calling them "muscle-flexing."