Russia surprised the world over after it announced the withdraw of its forces in Syria in part of the ceasefire agreement. However, some remain critical on whether Russia is truly delivering its promise especially following sighting of its nuclear ballistic missile “Iskander” in Syria. Is Russia planning something else in Syria?
Russia may be doing the opposite thing in Syria. When President Vladimir Putin said that Russian forces would be withdrawing from Syria, the natural expectation is that its Yauza, a Russian naval icebreaker and one of the country’s supply vessels, will be returning to the Arctic Ocean port. However this was not the case.
According to a report from Reuters, the Yauza – which is a part of the “Syrian Express” – sailed for Tartous, Russia’s naval facility in Syria. The report noted that the load of vessel is heavy as considering how it sat extremely low in the water. Considering this along with the movements of the Russian ships dating from Putin’s announcement only concur to one thing: Russia has shipped more supplies to Syria compared to what it withdrew. This also implies that Russia has been working on making sure its military presence and infrastructure in Syria remain strong.
“Since the main part of the force de facto stayed there, there is no reason to reduce the traffic,” shared Mikhail Barabanov, a senior research fellow at the Moscow-based CAST military think tank.
“Supplies for the Syrian army remain significant as well,” Barabanov added.
Furthermore, Macedonia Online also reported that an Iskander SS-26 Stone short-range ballistic missile complex was seen near the Hmeymim airbase used by Russia on March 27. The report also noted that the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation redeployed unknown types of missiles to its Hmeymim air base in Syria.
US officials admitted that it remains unclear what Russia wants in Syria considering it is maintaining its presence there. “What we really need the Russians to do is to advance the political solution,” ABC quoted Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
“They have unique leverage there because of their relationship with the Syrian regime. And what we really need is an end to the Civil War,” the secretary said.
“I hope that’s where the weight of the Russian effort lies,” he added.