Russian naval facility in Tartus

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Russian naval facility in Tartus
720-й ПМТО ВМФ России в Сирии
Part of the Russian Navy
Detailkarte der Marinebasis Tartus.svg
Map of the Tartus Syrian Naval Base (Russian piers (5) off northern breakwater, most of the balance of facility — numbered buildings — within the dashed line belongs to the Syrian Navy).[a]
MTSP Tartus is located in Syria
MTSP Tartus
MTSP Tartus
Coordinates 34°54′54″N 35°52′26″E / 34.915°N 35.874°E / 34.915; 35.874
Site information
Controlled by Black Sea Fleet [b][c]
Condition Prior to mid-2013 was minimally manned by civilian contractors.[1]
Site history
Built 1971 (1971)
Garrison information
Garrison Up until June 2013 was primarily maintained by civilian contractors only (4 servicemen stationed circa 2012).[2]
Occupants Russian Navy

The Russian naval facility in Tartus is a leased military installation of the Russian Navy located on the northern edge of the sea port of the Syrian city of Tartus. Up until 2017, Russian official usage classified the installation as a Material-Technical Support Point (Russian: Пункт материально-технического обеспечения, ПМТО) and not as a "base". Tartus is the Russian Navy's only Mediterranean repair and replenishment spot, sparing Russia’s warships the trip back to their Black Sea bases through the Turkish Straits.[3] It is the Russian Navy's only overseas base.[4]

The Tartus facility currently can accommodate four medium-sized vessels but only if both of its 100 m (330 ft) floating piers, inside the northern breakwater, are operational. It is not (yet) capable of hosting any of the Russian Navy's current major warships which range in length from the 129 m (423 ft) Neustrashimyy-class frigate through to the 163 m (535 ft) Udaloy-class destroyer, much less cruisers such as the 186.4 m (612 ft) Slava class and the 252 m (827 ft) Kirov class, or the 305 m (1,001 ft) Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier and the 156 m (512 ft) Sovremennyy-class destroyer. It is however, in theory at least, presently able to support limited vertical replenishment operations for those larger warships.

Current legal status, use, and strength[edit]

On 18 January 2017, Russia and Syria signed an agreement, effective forthwith, whereunder Russia would be allowed to expand and use the naval facility at Tartus for 49 years on a free-of-charge basis and enjoy sovereign jurisdiction over the base.[5][6][7] The treaty allows Russia to keep 11 warships at Tartus, including nuclear vessels;[8] it stipulates privileges and full immunity from Syria′s jurisdiction for Russia′s personnel and materiel at the facility.[9] The treaty was ratified and approved by Russian parliament, and the relevant federal law was signed by president Vladimir Putin by the end of December 2017.[10][11][12]

In late December 2017, Russia announced it had set about ″forming a permanent grouping" at the Tartus naval facility as well as at its Hmeymim airbase, after president Putin approved the structure and the personnel strength of the Tartus and Hmeymim bases.[13][8]

The Russian facility at Tartus has been used for delivering armaments and supplies by Russian dock landing ships and cargo ships that pass the Straits from the Russian Black Sea port in Novorossiysk to Syria (the Syrian Express) — for the purposes of Russia′s military operation that began on 30 September 2015 as well as for the Syrian Arab Army.[14][15][16][17] According to media reports, a drastic intensification of traffic of the Syrian Express was noted since mid-August 2015.[18]

History[edit]

The facility was established during the Cold War in accordance with a Soviet–Syrian agreement concluded in 1971, with a view of supporting the Soviet Navy′s 5th Operational Squadron in the Mediterranean, which was meant as a counterbalance to the U.S.′ Sixth Fleet headquartered in Italy (then in Gaeta).[14]

In the early 1970s, similar support points were located in Egypt, Ethiopia (Eritrea), Vietnam and elsewhere. In 1977, the Egyptian support bases at Alexandria and Mersa Matruh were evacuated and the ships and property were transferred to Tartus, where the naval support facility was transformed into the 229th Naval and Estuary Vessel Support Division.

In 1984, the Tartus support point was upgraded to the 720th Material-Technical Support Point.[14]

In December 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved and its Mediterranean 5th Operational Squadron composed of ships from the Northern Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, and the Black Sea Fleet, ceased to exist in December 1992. Since then, there have been occasional deployments by Russian Navy ships and submarines to the Mediterranean Sea.

As Russia forgave Syria 73% of its $13.4 billion Soviet-era debt in 2005[19] and became its main arms supplier, Russia and Syria held talks about allowing Russia to develop and enlarge its naval facility, so that Russia could strengthen its naval presence in the Mediterranean.[20] Amid Russia's deteriorating relations with the West, because of the 2008 South Ossetia War and plans to deploy a US missile defense shield in Poland, an unsourced article said that President Assad reportedly agreed to the port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships.[21]

In September 2008, a second floating piers was built at the facility, following the discussion of the issue between presidents of Russia and Syria in August.[14] Meanwhile, mass media and officials of Russia, Israel, and Syria were making contradictory statements about Russian warships planning to call at Tartus as well as about the prospects of upgrading the facility to a naval base.[22]

In July 2009, the Russian military announced they would modernise the Tartus facility.[23]

During the Syrian Civil War prior to Russian intervention[edit]

Media reports in March 2012 suggested that Russian special forces had arrived at the Tartus port.[24] According to a TASS report published in December 2017, the Tartus facility has been used for supplies of Russian armaments and military cargo since June 2012.[14] Back in June 2012, Russian officials denied reports that they were reinforcing the garrison at Tartus with marines.[25] About 50 Russian sailors and specialist technicians were said to be stationed there then.[26]

In July 2012, Russian Navy commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov said that should the personnel at the facility be in danger they would be evacuated if the Russian president ordered it.[27]

On 3 August 2012, international media reported that three large Russian amphibious assault ships, carrying hundreds of Marines would soon visit Tartus. Earlier reports, quoting a source at the Russian General Staff, said the ships would spend a few days in Tartus and would take on fresh supplies of food and water. British media added that the ships each had up to 120 Marines on board. The Russian defence ministry left open the possibility that the ships might dock there at some point for logistical reasons, saying they had every right to do so. The General Staff source, who was not named, had said that after calling in at Tartus, they would head for the Bosphorus and the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.[28][29] The ships, part of Russia's Northern Fleet, were Aleksandr Otrakovskiy, Georgiy Pobedonosets and Kondopoga, all Ropucha-class landing ships. The source, quoted by Interfax news agency, said one would anchor off Tartus and the other two would use a floating pier, because the port facilities were limited. There was speculation that Russia may begin evacuating its nationals from Syria and deploy Marines to protect personnel and equipment, as the violence intensifies (about 30,000 Russian citizens were said to be living in Syria).[28][30]

In May 2013, a U.S. newspaper reported that Russia had sent a dozen or more warships to patrol waters near Tartus, a move that was seen as a warning to the U.S. and Israel not to intervene in the conflict in Syria.[31]

At the end of June 2013, Russian deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said in an interview that the facility did not have any strategic or military importance and that Russia had evacuated all civilian and military personnel from Tartus and Syria (″Presently, the Russian Defense Ministry has not a single person stationed in Syria″).[32][33] This information was then confirmed by the Russian Defense Ministry.[32]

After the Operational formation of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea was formed in September 2013, the facility at Tartus was charged with servicing and repairs of the ships of that formation.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ As of early 2018 these boundaries are subject to change.
  2. ^ Prior to 2013 it was under the direct control of the Russian Ministry of Defence.
  3. ^ For organizational purposes it is currently under the aegis of the Black Sea Fleet; operational control however is normally exercised by the 5th Operational Squadron.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Russia not withdrawing its base from Syria's Tartus". Pravda. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  2. ^ RTR Russian TV 4 Jul 2012
  3. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (18 June 2012). "Russian Warships Said to Be Going to Naval Base in Syria". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "Russia Seeks Several Military Bases Abroad – Defense Minister". Sputnik. February 26, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2018. 
  5. ^ "Moscow cements deal with Damascus to keep 49-year presence at Syrian naval and air bases". TASS. 20 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "New Russia-Syria accord allows up to 11 warships in Tartus port simultaneously". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 30 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Путин внес в ГД соглашение о расширении пункта обеспечения ВМФ в Тартусе". RIA Novosti (in Russian). 13 December 2017. 
  8. ^ a b "Russia establishing permanent presence at its Syria bases: RIA". Reuters. 26 December 2017. 
  9. ^ Соглашение между Российской Федерацией и Сирийской Арабской Республикой о расширении территории пункта материально-технического обеспечения Военно-Морского Флота Российской Федерации в районе порта Тартус и заходах военных кораблей Российской Федерации в территориальное море, внутренние воды и порты Сирийской Арабской Республики // ″Статья 9 Иммунитеты и привилегии″, www.kodeks.ru
  10. ^ Подписан закон о ратификации соглашения между Россией и Сирией о расширении территории пункта материально-технического обеспечения ВМФ России в районе порта Тартус kremlin.ru, 29 December 2017.
  11. ^ Путин подписал закон о ратификации соглашения по базе ВМФ РФ в Тартусе Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 29 December 2017.
  12. ^ Russia’s upper house ratifies agreement on naval base in Syria’s Tartus TASS, 26 December 2017.
  13. ^ Россия начала формировать постоянную группировку в Тартусе и Хмеймиме TASS, 26 December 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Пункт материально-технического обеспечения ВМФ России в Тартусе. Досье TASS, 13 December 2017.
  15. ^ "Сирийский экспресс" тормозить не собирается Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 26 December 2017.
  16. ^ Российские десантные корабли создали «дорогу жизни» для Сирии vz.ru, 2 October 2017.
  17. ^ Exclusive: Russia builds up forces in Syria, Reuters data analysis shows Reuters, 7 October 2016.
  18. ^ Сирийский экспресс: Российские военные корабли на пути в Тартус rusnext.ru, 8 September 2015.
  19. ^ А.Кудрин: Россия простила Сирии $9,6 млрд долгов: Россия спишет 73% от суммы долга Сирии, который с учетом встречной задолженности и обязательств России составляет 13,4 млрд долл., сообщил сегодня министр финансов РФ Алексей Кудрин по итогам российско-сирийских переговоров в Кремле. RBK Group, 25 January 2005.
  20. ^ Weitz, Richard (2010). Global security watch—Russia : a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger Security International. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-313-35434-2. 
  21. ^ "Big Russian flotilla led by Admiral Kuznetsov carrier heads for Syrian port". DEBKAfile. 21 August 2008. Archived from the original on August 23, 2008. Retrieved 22 August 2008. 
  22. ^ Тартус мал для "Петра Великого": Сирийский порт не сможет принять российский флот Kommersant, 24 September 2008.
  23. ^ ВМФ РФ модернизирует пункт базирования кораблей в Сирии RIA Novosti, 20 July 2009.
  24. ^ "Russian special forces arrive in Syrian port: opposition sources". Al Arabiya News. 19 March 2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  25. ^ Russian Warships Said to Be Going to Naval Base in Syria NYT, 18 June 2012.
  26. ^ How vital is Syria's Tartus port to Russia? BBC, 27 June 2012.
  27. ^ "Russian Navy to evacuate Syrian base in emergency". Russia Today. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-01. 
  28. ^ a b "BBC News — Russia denies warships heading for Syria's Tartus port". Bbc.co.uk. 2012-08-03. Retrieved 2013-09-03. 
  29. ^ Loiko, Sergei L. (3 August 2012). "Russia reportedly sending warships with marines to Syrian waters". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  30. ^ Damien Cave; Dalal Mawad (3 August 2012). "Deadly Attack on Refugee Camp in Syria Could Shift Palestinian Allegiances to Rebels". New York Times. 
  31. ^ ""Russia Raises Stakes in Syria; Assad Ally Bolsters Warships in Region; U.S. Sees Warning". Wall Street Journal. May 16, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b Российские военные покинули Сирию: По словам источника в Минобороны, решение вывести из Сирии военный персонал связано со стремлением не подвергать его опасности в условиях гражданской войны Vedomosti, 25 June 2013.
  33. ^ "All personnel withdrawn from Russian navy base in Syria — diplomat". Rt.com. 26 June 2013.