Russia is building an armored navy lifeline for Syria’s embattled president Bashar al-Assad. Russia has been building its presence in Syria, with military exchanges between the two countries increasing exponentially. Though Russia’s motive remains unclear, the navy build up will offer insights on Russia’s military objective in the Middle Eastern country.
The Alexandr Tkachenko was an aging Russian vessel that ferried passengers from Russia to Crimea across the Kerch Strait. The mammoth sea vessel has since found its way to the Syrian port of Tartous.
On Sept. 11, reports indicated that the Russian naval presence in Syria had received a boost with the docking of the Tkachenko. The port of Tartous is one of the last ports controlled by Assad’s forces. Russia also has a leased naval base there. Reports indicated that the ship arrived full of trucks which contents were unknown.
Russian authorities did not comment on the contents of the vessel as of the time of reporting, while Moscow’s foreign affairs ministry had not issued a statement on the vessel’s transit to Syria.
The Tkachenko was previously held by Crimea based logistics company SMT-K. A statement from the company revealed that crossings between Crimea and Russia had ceased since August, after the vessel was taken to Syria. Officials from the company said the Russian government had chartered the ship and taken it away.
U.S. officials have raised concern over Russia’s increased military presence in Syria, saying it would hamper efforts to fight the terror group ISIS. Russia has maintained it has neither military presence nor plans of setting up such presence in the Middle Eastern country, despite traffic from Tartous to the Russian port of Novorossik averaging a vessel a month over the last year. Between Sept. 9 and Sept. 24, more than 6 cargo vessels docked in Tartous from Novorossiisk.
Assad has been suffering a sustained battle to remain in power. A sustained offensive from western backed rebels, the rogue terror group ISIS and the dissatisfied Syrian population, has left Assad with no allies other than Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.
The buildup of Russian military in Syria will affect the war on ISIS and inevitably serve to prolong the reign of dictator Assad. Though the Kremlin has maintained it seeks only to foster peace in the region, Putin’s army’s foreign excursions will serve to harm the country’s future for good.