Russia to rebuild its former Soviet naval base in Syria's Tartus

Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted a draft law to the State Duma on the ratification of the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic about the need to expand the territory of the logistics center in the port of Tartus.

In fact, it goes about creating a full-fledged infrastructure for the Mediterranean squadron. Such a base used to exist in the times of the Soviet Union - as counterbalance to the Sixth US Navy. Can Russia build such a naval base again?

The agreement will be valid for 49 years. The document is defensive in nature and is not directed against other states. Eleven Russian warships, including nuclear-powered vessels, will be able to stay in the port of Tartus. The agreement can be automatically extended for 25 years.

Plots of land, the water area of the port of Tartus, as well as real estate objects will be transferred to Russia for free for the duration of the agreement. The personnel of the base (the text of the agreement indicates it as the "logistics center"), as well as members of crews will enjoy "privileges and immunities."

In a nutshell, Russia receives the former naval base of the Syrian Navy in its entirety. Given the terms of the agreement, it would be foolish to refuse from such a great  opportunity. Yet, it is not enough to have a base at one's disposal, one needs to maintain it properly.

Interfax news agency earlier reported with reference to an informed source that the channel in the port of Tartus would be broadened and deepened. "In the future, two new piers for mooring ships with a displacement of over 10,000 tons will be built along with a complex of residential and administrative buildings for purposes of the Russian Navy," the source then said.

Generally speaking, the squadron was recreated in 2013 - in the form of an operational unit of the Russian Navy to the Mediterranean Sea. During the Soviet years, Tartus could not be used as a full-fledged naval base of the Soviet Union.

Of course, the Americans did not have such a problem. And of course, the Russian squadron in the Mediterranean can not be on equal footing with the fleets of NATO member states. Is there any sense in the presence of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean on a permanent basis? Does Russia need to invest heavily in upgrading the naval base in Tartus?

"For Russia, a naval base in Syria means the following. First off, it is always a place, where Russian navy men can take a short rest and hold quick repairs, if necessary. Taking into account that the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions are of strategic importance for world security, Russian forces should stay here indefinitely," Mikhail Nenashev, chairman of the All-Russian Fleet Support Movement told Pravda.Ru.

In his opinion, there is no need to keep up to a hundred ships in the Mediterranean Sea, as it was in the times of the Soviet Union.

"These days, we need efficient ships, we need opportunities when we can solve anti-terrorist tasks with the help of unmanned vehicles, without crew ships," he added.

In his opinion, Russia's presence in the region is natural, especially because the Mediterranean is almost like a coastal region for Russia. "The naval base in Tartus is not an act of expansion, especially when Arab countries literally demand Russia's presence in the region for balance," Mikhail Nenashev added.

Anton Kulikov

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Author`s name Anton Kulikov
Topics syria