Russia’s Caspian fleet is launching missiles into Syria as part of the Moscow’s largest sea operation since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia’s presence in Syria is causing widespread debate and concern, with many viewing it as an impediment to the fight against terrorism in the region.

Russia’s Caspian fleet has not seen any action for over 300 years. Best known for oil drilling activities in the Caspian sea, the naval fleet has now been commissioned to launch missiles into Syria targeting terror group ISIS.

A Russian war fleet recently launched 26 kalibr missiles from the Caspian Sea on Wednesday. This marks the first time the missiles have been fired in the Syrian combat. Russian military officials said the missiles travelled 900 miles to strike their targets in Syria. U.S. officials, however, disputed the claims saying all four missiles landed in Iran.

Russia stations about 20 warships loaded with missile, artillery cannons and torpedoes on the Caspian Sea. Military observers have said this is a large number, considering there is no war in the region. While Russian authorities claim the warships are stationed there for strategic military positioning including the monitoring of terror activities, analysts believe they were stationed out of a lack for options for Russia generals wanting to involve themselves in Syria.

Authorization to fly missiles through Turkey, a NATO member, was out of the question, so was a land based attack ruled out by the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty prohibiting the use of ground-launched missiles with a travel range of 310 to 3400 miles.

According to Defence Columnist Alexander Golts, “It’s very simple. They could quickly reach an agreement with Iraq and Iran but not with Turkey.”

Missile strikes are usually conducted to weaken enemy forces before large-scale assaults on the battlefield. They are also done to reach targets inaccessible by air.

Russia has repeatedly said it has no intention of sending ground troops in Syria. By firing missiles into Syria from sea and expanding airstrikes into the region over the past week, Moscow will prolong the stay of dictatorial Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The move will also counter US efforts to fight terror group ISIS.

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