He said that there were ten Russian warships and ten support ships in the Mediterranean now, as part of planned maneuvers announced last year.
On July 10, a combined squad of Russia’s Northern, Baltic and Black Sea Fleets entered the Mediterranean on a three-month-long training mission to practice anti-piracy and rescue efforts. Some of the ships will call at Tartus.
Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, said in an interview that as long as Russia positioned itself as a naval power, it must have ports, mooring sites or, preferably, naval bases abroad. Russia pulled out of Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and also out of Aden. Tartus is the only site where Russian ships can dock for refueling and repairs and allow their crews to rest a little, he said.
"Strictly speaking, the Tartus station is not a naval base. We only have a floating repair dock there. The port is not equipped to be a base, but potential changes are possible. If we maintain our presence there, modernization will be needed."
Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecast Center, echoes that with tension mounting around Syria and military intervention not altogether unlikely, the Russian base in Tartus acquires vital geopolitical significance.
"If Russia loses that base, it will have nowhere in the Mediterranean to fuel or repair its ships. The moment Russia loses the Tartus base, it will also lose Syria. Consequently, and I deem it quite possible, military actions against Iran may begin. That scenario will create very complicated problems for Russian troops stationed in the Caucasus. Therefore, and it should be admitted frankly, when we talk about Syria, we talk about Iran and the Russian troops in the Caucasus."
Russia has never made a secret of its intention to keep its logistics base in Tartus.
Built by the former Soviet Union in 1971, the Tartus station was conceived as a supply and maintenance center for the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean. It has two floating docks, a repair workshop, storage and other facilities, and several small barracks. Its personnel currently numbers 50 servicemen. After the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the 5th Mediterranean Squadron was dissolved, but the base remained. Today, it’s Russia’s only naval station in the region.