The Kremlin has upped the geopolitical ante by pledging to send a heavy aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean, as reported by Russian news agency Interfax.
The carrier — named the “Admiral Kuznetsov” — is quite the beast, and word of its addition to the area of operations is just the latest in jockeying between the U.S. and Russia.
“The cruiser will … perform a number of missions in an offshore oceanic zone as part of a group,” Navy Commander Adm. Viktor Chirkov told Interfax. “Northern Fleet naval pilots will perform a number of missions on board this cruiser in the long-range mission.”
The warship holds several sea-based fighters and helicopters, missiles, anti-submarine systems and a crew of 2,000 people.
Despite the implications of the new orders, Chirkov nonchalantly tossed the Admiral Kuznetsov in with the other ships recently deployed to the Mediterranean.
“After all, ships from the Northern, Black Sea, and Baltic Fleets will perform missions as part of this group. So why not,” he said.
The carrier is the only one in Russia’s fleet, so its deployment is an unmistakable signal of Moscow’s seriousness about protecting their regional interests, some of which are directly tied to the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Syria port of Tartus.
The port of Tartus (A), Syria, which is the site of Russia’s only remaining international military base outside of the former Soviet Union.
In November Russia sent six warships from its Black Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean in response to the Israel-Gaza conflict. That month the U.S. also began making moves to increase the American military presence in the east Mediterranean.
In May a detachment from Russia’s Pacific Fleet entered the Mediterranean waters for the first time since the Cold War.
“The Russian Defense Ministry started setting up a special force of warships in the Mediterranean in order to protect Russia’s interests in the region,” Syria’s state-run news agency reported last month, citing a spokesman for Russia defense ministry.
The support Russia has provided to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the 26-month conflict includes guns, grenades, tank parts, fighter jets, advanced antiship cruise missiles, long-range air defense missiles, military officers as advisors, diplomatic cover, and lots of cash.
Topping it off, all of these ships are guarding Assad’s ancestral homeland and only route out of the country.
No wonder Syria’s ruler shows no sign of backing down