Skip to main content

View Diary: UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria (43 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  If this was embassy staff, the Russians would howl (0+ / 0-)

    Capturing a member of an embassy staff is a big no-no.

    Also, you might want to look into the issue of Russian relations with Syria.  Syria is a Russian client state, purchasing virtually all of its military equipment from them and hosting a major Russian naval base.  This base dates from the Cold War, when Syria was formally a Soviet ally.  The Assad regime is Russia's most important ally in the region.  This is not something novel that happened in response to Arab Spring, either.

    Here is the Wikipedia page on Russian-Syrian relations, for a quick overview.  It's Wikipedia, but it's a good outline.

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 07:29:18 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  We don't know what the Russian reaction is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Claudius Bombarnac

      Being as this story just happened.

      I know Syria has a lot of Soviet/Russian equipment. Neither my birth nor the Six Days War happened last night. So that is why the presence of a Russian general officer, in and of itself, is not alarming.

      "Major" Russian naval base. {sigh} If I had a dollar for every time I read that claim here, I could buy - I dunno - a nice steak dinner. The Russians essentially lease a pier in Syria's #2 port city. It hosts some 50 Russian support people. It's a place one or two small ships can dock to get some paint scraped and refuel. It's not too far from saying the Coast Guard station in my Great Lakes home town is a "major" US Navy base.

      That being said it is Russia's only naval toehold outside The Black Sea / Baltic Sea / North Fleet bases so I am sure the Russian Naval brass over-values it. It is safe to assume there is a pro-Assad element in Russian internal politics That does not mean the pro-Assad faction dominates Russian FP.

      We can be sure the Russian Navy does not have that much internal prestige these days. The one warship their Black Sea Fleet was able to get seaworthy long enough to clear the Dardanelles is a 40+ year-old obsolete clunker. It's construction began about a month after that famous Six Days War. So this is the might 21st Century Russian Fleet these days ... the part that has not fulled conveted to iron oxide that is.

      For my money it is reckless to jump from this story to suggesting the Russian military is directly involved in fighting anti-Assad forces. Maybe they are. Maybe they are not. Maybe they have been but will decide Assad is a loser in the long term and then cut him loose.

      I cannot stop you from assuming go ahead if you are determined to do so. All I can do is express my opinion early assumptions are reckless. To me the real story is more interesting than hypothetical scenarios.

      •  It's more "revolting" than "alarming." (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Quicklund

        Russian backing for Syria has been part of the landscape throughout this entire episode, and for years before that.  I suppose you could say that any foreign power backing up a dictator as vicious as Assad against a popular uprising is "alarming" in the sense of being ugly and disreputable, but it's been standard operating procedure for Russia throughout the Syrian uprising.

        Also, your information about the base at Tarsus is outdated.  It's being upgraded and expanded to become a permanent home for nuclear-powered Russian vessels.
        See here.

        Since Russia forgave Syria of three quarters, or $9.6 billion, of its $13.4 billion Soviet-era debt and became its main arms supplier in 2006, it has been reported that Russia and Syria have conducted talks about allowing Russia to develop and enlarge its naval facility, so that Russia can strengthen its naval presence in the Mediterranean.[6] 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, President Assad reportedly agreed to the port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships.[7] Since 2009, Russia has been renovating the Tartus naval base and dredging the port to allow access for its larger naval vessels.[8]
        On 8 September 2008, it was reported that ten Russian warships docked in Tartus.[9] According to Lebanese-Syrian commentator Joseph Farah, the flotilla which moved to Tartus consisted of the Moskva cruiser and four nuclear missile submarines.[10] An assertion unconfirmed by any other source and clearly beyond the capability of the facility in Tartus. Two weeks later, Russian Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo said the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Peter The Great, accompanied by three other ships, sailed from the Northern Fleet's base of Severomorsk. The ships would cover about 15,000 nautical miles (28,000 km) to conduct joint maneuvers with the Venezuelan Navy. Dygalo refused to comment on reports in the daily Izvestia claiming that the ships were to make a stopover in the Syrian port of Tartus on their way to Venezuela. Russian officials said the Soviet-era base there was being renovated to serve as a foothold for a more constant Russian Navy presence in the Mediterranean.[11][12]
        So, no, we're talking about something quite a bit more significant than chipping paint.
        That does not mean the pro-Assad faction dominates Russian FP.
        What are you talking about?  Syria is Russia's closest ally in the MENA region and home to its own overseas naval base.  They've forgiven billions of dollars in debt and sold them billions of dollars in weapons - the ones being used to put down the rebellion, for instance - including sales during the uprising itself.  Look at how much Russia has gone out on a limb for Assad at the UN Security Council, to the point that the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to send them a nasty-gram.  Syria is basically Russia's Israel, and you are willing to allow that there is a pro-Syrian "faction" in the government?

        Now THAT is a hypothetical scenario.

        Art is the handmaid of human good.

        by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 08:35:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'll look into it (3+ / 0-)

          However this flies in the face of a news release earlier this year about the North Sea Fleet flagship which the Russians sailed past Gibraltar earlier this year. It was explicitly stated this ship could not dock at Tartus. IIRC the Smetlivy can.  It is not really surprising the Russians would want all of their (very few) seaworthy vessels to be able to refuel there.

          At any rate I cannot say more than what I have already said. There is no question Russia has cultivated Syria since WWII.  The question is, going forward, how will the Russians decide they can best protect that investment?

          There is much evidence that proves Russian has invested in the Assad regime but that does not prove Russian forces are directly involved against Syrian rebels today. There is more than one way to negotiate a naval base, and I don't pretend to be a better chess player than the Russians. I'll wait to see what happens.

          •  Note that the improvements are not done. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Quicklund

            As of today, the Tarsus base is still basically what you say.  My point was that Russia had planned on turning it into a mainstay of a modern naval presence in the Med, and had negotiated a deal with the regime.

            I read somewhere that there is a quiet deal among the involved powers to allow the Russians to keep the base even if the FSA wins.  Wheels within wheels, eh?

            Art is the handmaid of human good.

            by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 12:29:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Your selection of Wiki dates back to 2008 (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Quicklund

          Here's a more relevant selection.

          Video reporting by Russian TV in late June 2012 provided a tour of the Russian Navy's modest foothold in Tartus. The officer-in-charge conducting the tour said that only four(4) personnel now man the facility and that one of its two floating piers is inoperative because a storm had severely damaged its moorings. The shore facilities comprise a barracks, office space, two medium sized corrugated metal storage buildings, and a covered parking shed for about 5-6 service vehicles. A brief tour of the naval repair vessel then in port and tied to the sole operational pier also showed that it was minimally manned - about 10-12 personel, including the master and chief engineer. There was no mention of potential repairs or facility expansion.
          For REAL updated data on Tartus:
          Russian Naval Base Tartus pdf
          July 31, 2012
          ...
          This backgrounder will describe the technical capabilities of the Russian base at Tartus and its literal significance to the Russian Navy. It will also consider the political opportunities it affords to Russia in the context of the Syrian civil war.
          ...
          However, these are only basic support functions. There is no command and control facility, which means the Russian Navy cannot direct operations from Tartus.10 The harbor depth and pier clearance cannot support the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Russian Navy’s only aircraft carrier; when it pulls into Tartus, it anchors offshore. The aforementioned repair ship PM-138 is actually home-ported in Sevastopol, and it is not permanently available at Tartus.11 Furthermore, crew support facilities
          are limited; commercial imagery indicates that there are no military hospital facilities or barracks, which suggests that base facilities will not support an extended port call at Tartus. The city of Tartus itself, with a population of over 100,000, does have adequate public services available, such as medical facilities, transportation, and hotels, to support Russian Sailors on an extended stay if they are allowed to stay in the city, rather than on the small base at Tartus itself.12
          ...
          Conclusion

          Current Russian activities deviate from the depiction of Tartus as a critical sustainment port supporting the expansion of Russian Naval capability. Instead, they suggest that Russia is using Tartus as a political lever, both to affect the outcome of the Syrian civil war and to maintain legitimate access to a strategically located facility nested in the Arab world....
          ...Curiously, and despite Russian support to the Assad regime thus far, it does not appear that a unified Syrian government is critical to Russia’s interests, nor is Assad personally.
          ...

          •  Note that the link was about planned expansion. (0+ / 0-)

            Just like the powerful, expeditionary, nuclear-powered, 21st-century Russian navy itself, this is what we call "in the planning stage."

            Nonetheless, the Russians clearly value the site a great deal.  A Med presence for the Black Sea Fleet has been a core Russian foreign policy goal for centuries, and the deal they struck with the Assad regime was their ticket to that goal.

            BTW, I read recently that there was a quite deal to allow the Russians to keep the base even if the FSA wins.  Wheels within wheels, eh?

            Art is the handmaid of human good.

            by joe from Lowell on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 12:33:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Your analysis is fairly close to reality (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Quicklund

        See my post below.

        •  Thank you for that interesting info (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Claudius Bombarnac

          The Tartus facility is constant referred here on DKos as a "major" naval base but it isn't even a tiny naval base. It is a place Russian Ships can refuel w/o having to go all the way back to Crimea. That is a valuable capability (when Russia manages to get a ship to sea) but it is valuable to Russia only because they have so very little naval capability to begin with.

          Tartus is not a base it is a section of a civilian port. And a rather small section too. That means it is not a HQ facility, as your clip points out. It has no naval stores of note, no barracks, no attached airbase, no drydock, no heavy repair capability, no nothing that makes a true naval base a center of sustained operations.

          I am sure the Russians would like to hold on to it because it is their only trace of a base outside their home waters. But they will not pay just anything for it. And even if Assad falls the Russians should have at worst a 50/50 chance of keeping the lease.

          •  Any new government of Syria would have to (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Quicklund

            deal with Russia. They have hundreds of billions of dollars of major arms, missiles, radar, aircraft, etc. that need to be serviced. They will not be able to dump and replace this stuff overnight. Of course, if there's an intervention, a lot of it will be destroyed as occurred in Libya.

            The US is buying Russian helicopters for use by the new Afghan forces because they have the service facilities and trained pilots for them. Note: that congress voted it down but it will come up again or be done covertly through a third country.

            Libya is going for all new armaments from the west. NATO pretty well cleaned out the old Russian stuff.

            •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Claudius Bombarnac

              Everything you say makes sense. There is a lot of investment in Soviet/Russian systems and that takes a long time to change even if change is desired.

              I am pretty darn sure the newer members of NATO are still operating substantial amounts of Soviet-built hardware. e.g  The Czech Republic still has hundreds of Soviet APCs. To someone who grew up in the Cold War that's still a bit of a mind warp.

              I hadn't heard about the Libyan purchases so thank you for passing that along. That's not too surprising. I gathered (during the uprising news) that Ghaddafi hadn't really kept his forces too well maintained even before all the fighting broke out. And of course NATO salesmen were probably the first ones putting a foot in the door.

              •  The deals haven't been finalized yet except (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Quicklund

                for a contract to refurbish a dozen Mirage jets that had been grounded due to lack of maintenance. It was a "window shopping" trip by Osama al-Juwali, the ex commander of the Zintan brigades who is now defense minister in Libya. The French tried to sell 14 new Rafales. There's also talks about refurbishing the airbases.

                War is a damn good business model. You get money to destroy then you even more to rebuild. Too bad so many have to lose their lives in the process.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site