by the Saker:
I am delighted to post an article which, unlike all the nonsense we
have been fed by Ynet, Debka and the rest of them, actually makes
sense and outlines what appears to me a very likely description of
the rationale behind the military component of the overall Russian
strategy towards the war against Syria. This article also
confirms my guess that Latakia (and not Damascus) will be the center
of the Russian effort. While only time will show what the
Russians will eventually do, I hope that this analysis puts to rest
all the hyperbole about MiG-31s and Russian Airborne Divisions
the hunters for the traces of the Russian militaries in the Ukraine
and Syria were monitoring social networks trying to dig out photos
proving our marines’ presence at the Syrian port Tartus, the
Western media resorted to different tactics – the one of
assumptions and presumptions. Good logical thinking, indeed, for any
of the numerous versions they have been advancing might well shoot
under certain circumstances.
would like to remind the readers that the Western journalists and the
Russian restless Fifth Column both aim at proving by all means the
Russian servicemen’s presence in Syria. Being unable to present any
direct evidence thereof, “the debunkers” chose to recourse to
their favourite technique – reading tea leaves.
of the “researchers” Ruslan Leviev, for instance, made an error
having placed a bet on the Russian marines – alas, their presence
on the board of the large landing ship as well as at the Syrian port
Tartus is nowhere close to a sensation being totally legal and
regulated by Order 321 from 23 August 1997. Moreover, it is our
army’s duty to protect military facilities abroad, so even finding
the Russian marines on the airfield 5 kilometers from Latakia will
hardly be a scoop. Sorry, Ruslan, a wrong shot.
the Western media have been taking wild guesses over the course of
the last two weeks, spitting into the informational space dozens of
conjectures and proofs of the Russian military presence in Syria. A
good half of the material is a fake, a part of it is versions and the
rest is “information from reliable sources”. Nonetheless, having
such a variety of ideas, the Western journalists in a probabilistic
sense had a good chance to make a correct guess and hit the target.
Let us recall their principal versions and proofs:
delivers to Syria 6 MIG-31 fighters-interceptors (the Turkish media,
the middle of August).
deploys military aircraft with the Russian crew near Damascus (the
Israeli media, the end of August).
is forming striking troops of a thousand of soldiers near Damascus
(the Israeli media, the end of August).
Russian aircraft with the Russian crew bombs the positions of the
Islamists (the Israeli media, 1-2 September).
Russian language is heard speaking among the Syrian troops near
Latakia and Hama (the Lebanese media, 2-3 September).
is constructing a military base near Damascus (the Israeli media,
FCA fighters meet more and more Russians siding with the government
troops (the British media, 5 September).
is constructing a military base in Latakia (the Israeli and American
media, 5-11 September).
moves thousands of soldiers to Latakia (the American media, 6
is preparing for a large-scale operation against the Islamist
fighters (the American media, 6-11 September).
Syrian army backed by the Russian troops launches an offensive in
Latakia (the Lebanese media, 8-10 September).
one version has shot so far – “Russia is constructing a military
base in Latakia”. As a side note, at the distance of five
kilometers from Latakia seaport there is Bassel al Assad airport that
also serves as a military airfield.
information, presented by some Israeli and American media and
initially treated with certain skepticism, has now been proved by the
report of the American private analytical agency Stratfor known
around the world as “the shadow CIA”. Here is a quotation from
imagery of the Bassel al Assad international airport near Latakia
confirms the information of Russia performing military-transport
flights to this airfield where the Russians have allegedly been
constructing a base. The satellite imagery taken on 4 September shows
a newly built aircraft control tower, new asphalt, and containers
presumably used as mobile housing units. Construction work is under
way on the whole territory of the airport. There are traces of
excavations alongside the full length of the runway. Most likely, the
airport is being prepared for servicing heavy transport aircraft”.
can be seen in the satellite image, the following infrastructure
facilities are currently under construction:
aircraft control tower;
by the nature of the work, the second stage might well include
constructing aircraft shelters, take-off and landing training sites,
and an equipment repair area. At the moment the runway expansion work
is under way. In the nearest future we can expect installing on the
airfield ground-based electronic warfare units and radar stations, as
well as building a center for training air-defense specialists.
runway expansion work suggests that the airfield is planned to
receive heavy aircraft on a regular basis. Stratfor notes: “Having
built an airbase, Russia will have far more possibilities to back up
the government troops providing them with air support”. Expanding
the runway might serve a different purpose, though – the
simultaneous take-off of several aircraft.
first indirect evidence of the Latakia airfield being renovated
appeared on 6 September; it was Alexander Tkachenko ferry going
through the Bosporus with several dozens of army fuel drums and fire
engineering on board.
next day first Russian transport aircraft was noticed landing at the
Bassel al Assad airport. Here are all the flights that have been
registered so far in the chronological order:
September – An-124 (RA – 82039) Chkalovskyi – Latakia;
September – Il-62M (RA – 86496) Chkalovskyi – Latakia;
September – An-124 (RA – 82040) Mozdok – Latakia.
– 82040 (11 September), leading the aircraft group of the three,
had to turn back – presumably, ordered by Iraq – and later on
landed in Mozdok. The other two aircraft (82039 and 82035)
successfully landed in Latakia and came back to Russia the following
all the flights to Syria listed above the RA-82035 one from 8
September seems to be of particular interest. Having left its base
(Seschi, Bryanskaya Oblast) on the previous day, this aircraft’s
first destination was Pskov, where it got loaded up and only after
that headed for Syria. For most Russians Pskov is invariably
associated with these three things – the Pskov fortress, the
Trinity Cathedral, and the paratroopers. Accordingly, all the
interested parties arrived at a not surprising conclusion that it was
the paratroopers the aircraft had transported to Syria. That is a
rational supposition, but there might well be others.
Oblast is known to be rich in military units and here are some of
them that might relate to this flight:
656th separate guards field engineering battalion (m/u 452930);
7th separate repair and maintenance battalion (m/u 63320);
1682nd separate battalion of material support (m/u 42689);
353rd artillery ammunition depot (m/u 01706);
2098th artillery armaments depot (m/u 64527).
version of the Russian paratroopers having been deployed to Latakia
might prove true; however, we are quite skeptical about it. Clearly
there is no involvement of the Russian troops in the warfare in Syria
at the moment; the only task for our soldiers to perform is the
protection of the two military facilities – the logistics base in
Tartus and the military airfield in Latakia. But this for decades has
been marines’, not paratroopers’ duty.
for the idea that the aircraft might have transported from Pskov
armaments and ammunition, we regard it as highly dubious as well.
Firstly, it would have been much more rational to load the aircraft
up in the warehouses near Mozdok where our military planes do perform
flights from; secondly, all military exports pass through
Rosoboronexport, which renders the hypothesis of such a secretive
under the current circumstances, the Russian aircraft in question
might have transported engineering and repair and maintenance units.
The construction of military facilities abroad is normally carried
out by local contractors. Their functionality, however, is quite
limited – building mobile housing units, roads, fences, and
embankments is nearly as much as they are usually trusted with, all
complicated work being done by army’s engineer corps, particularly
as regards building military bases. Given that our base in Latakia is
being constructed in record time (according to the media), we can
confirm with full confidence that there are Russian engineer and
repair and maintenance units taking active part in it.
for the cargo of the rest aircraft, we cannot but guess. The official
media calls these flights “humanitarian”, transporting material
necessary for constructing a camp for 1,000 refugees, the theory we
willingly accept but for one reservation – only two aircraft
rendered humanitarian aid as such, which our media in fact reported.
All others, as we presume, delivered to Latakia electronics and
construction materials required for the new military base.
subtitled video “Russia delivers humanitarian aid to Syria” is
is also a version that some of the aircraft might have been loaded
with military equipment. However, in the light of the fact that all
the logistical support of the Syrian government troops is provided by
The Syrian Express, this possibility seems rather doubtful. Besides,
the current situation at the Syrian front line can barely be
considered as critical – the supply of the military equipment, even
if increased, is nevertheless made in the normal mode. All this
suggests that the recent intensification of the Russian flights to
Latakia is only connected with the construction of a military base in
the same time, the data Stratfor analytics have been so kind as to
provide us with implicitly evidences that the base is designed to
service strike aircraft, thus suggesting the idea that one or several
September An-124 flights deployed to Latakia military or
reconnaissance planes. As practice shows, an An-124 can transport two
aircraft with undocked wings. Military experts confirm the Syrian
army is impatiently waiting for a couple of Su-25 planes to be
delivered in order to considerably improve the situation at the front
line in its favour.
above asks for a brief explanation. The Syrian warfare is
characterized by high front instability and fluid battlefield which
partly stems from the critical shortage of weaponry and ammunition
supplies the warring parties have been continually experiencing.
Forming a well-armed and equipped striking force at any side of the
front line – either among government or Islamist troops – would
guarantee mounting a successful military operation resulting in the
chronology of the hostilities proves that nearly every act of
delivering arms to the targeted front site has resulted in a
successful operation. Given that the government troops’ fleet of
wheeled and tracked vehicles has considerably thinned out in these
four years of the ongoing warfare, the supply of Russian armored
vehicles could give the war course a sharp turn. In case the Syrian
offensive near Homs, Hama, Idliba and Latakia receives a due air
backing, the Islamists will almost certainly have to retreat thus
rendering the Mediterranean coast no longer dangerous to the Alawis.
number of military analysts claim that conducting airstrikes in the
area of Idliba parallel to the reinforcing the government army with
even 50 armored vehicles would contribute to its gaining a
considerable advantage over the Islamists. The Kurds’ offensive
supported by the aviation of the coalition forces demonstrates how
effective the interaction of the strike aircraft and advancing ground
troops can be.
is indirectly confirmed by the Stratfor’s report: “Even
this level of the Russian logistical and operational support could
crash the insurgents’ resistance.
Enhancing the loyalist forces’ stance, Moscow hopes to strengthen
its own position in the peace negotiations. Moreover, creating a
secure “air bridge” enables Russia to launch a rapid military
intervention if and when needed”.
regard to the functions of the Russian airbase in Latakia, we can too
make some assumptions:
airbase will serve as the second channel providing an uninterrupted
supply of weapons and military equipment to the Syrian government
forces. The situation at the front line being unstable, third parties
increasingly interfering in the conflict, and the sea channel failing
to meet the current demands, – owing to all these factors Russia’s
intervention might at any moment become imperative. The Syrian
Express for obvious reasons is not efficient enough especially in
respects of operational flexibility. The Stratfor’s report
repeatedly featuring “supply channel”, “channel of operative
measure” and similar wording speaks in favour of this version.
runway improvements and constructing infrastructures might signify
the airfield is going to be actively used by military aircraft. We
have already mentioned that the extension of the runway will enable
several planes to take off simultaneously, as well as that the
government troops definitely require air support. The hysterics the
entire international community headed by the United States is
writhing in only bears out this inference. The point is the Russian
political and military leadership renounces any Islamists’
gradation rightly considering the notion of “moderate” Islamist
fighters nonsensical. This fact is of great concern to Washington
which has placed its political bet in this war conflict on so called
moderate opposition; accordingly, the perspective of the latter’s
ranks getting considerably thinner as a result of the Russian air
strikes is barely exciting for both the USA and the “opposition”.
Hence the hysterics.
above variants are not mutually exclusive, though, so the airfield
might well serve two purposes. Time will tell. At all events, the
construction of this airbase is not that bad a backup for Russia in
the Middle East.