DEBKAfile

Big Russian flotilla led by Admiral Kuznetsov carrier heads for Syrian port

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report

August 21, 2008, 5:07 PM (GMT+02:00)

Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier heads for Mediterranean

Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier heads for Mediterranean

As the West awaits Moscow’s threatened reprisal for the treaty installing American missile interceptors at Redzikowo, on Poland’s Baltic coast – signed in Warsaw Wednesday - the Kremlin is striking back in the Middle East – hence Russian president Dimitry Medvedev’s honeyed words of reassurance to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in a call he made to Jerusalem Wednesday, Aug. 20.

DEBKAfile’s military sources disclose that a powerful Russian naval contingent, led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov , left Murmansk on the Barents Sea Aug. 18 to dock at the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus Saturday, Aug. 23. It includes the Russian Navy’s biggest missile cruiser Moskva and at least four nuclear missile submarines.

At the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Syrian president Bashar Assad told reporters Thursday, Aug. 21, that he is considering a Russian request to deploy missiles in his country in view of Russian-Western tensions over the Georgian conflict, which he said had polarized East and West anew.

Assad signaled he would also be representing Tehran’s interests in his talks with Russian leaders. Jordan’s King Abdullah is on his way to join them later in the day.

Before the Russian flotilla departed Murmansk, Assad is reported by our sources as having given the nod for Tartus port’s conversion into a permanent Middle East base for Russia’s nuclear-armed warships.

Assad’s arrival coincided with a visit by a large Syrian military delegation Thursday at the Russian weapons manufacturing giant, the Kalinin Machines Plant, east of Moscow. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that this plant makes sophisticated anti-air missile systems, including the S-300 and the BUK M, for which Damascus is bidding.

The Syrian ruler has said he is seeking closer military cooperation with Russia. The deal emerging from his visit is expected to cover the Russian Navy’s use of Tartus in return for a mutual defense accord providing Syria with a Russian nuclear umbrella and generous terms for his arms purchases.

Aug. 17, DEBKAfile first revealed Russia’s planned nuclear military deployments in the Middle East and Baltic to punish America for its missile deal with Poland and Georgia's attack in South Ossetia. They would included the installation of Iskandar surface missiles in Syria and Kaliningrad.

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