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Russia to Send Ships to Mediterranean

August 30, 2013
30 August 2013 | Issue 5202

Israelis lining up at a gas mask distribution center on Thursday amid fears of a Western military strike on Syria.


Israelis lining up at a gas mask distribution center on Thursday amid fears  of a Western military strike on Syria.


Russia announced on Thursday plans to increase its Navy presence  in the Mediterranean as ships from the U.S., Britain and France  stood by to await orders in case of a military strike  on Syria.

Calls for military intervention intensified in the aftermath  of an alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Eastern  Ghouta on Aug. 21, which the U.S. and Europe believe was carried  out by the Syrian government and Russia says was done by Syrian  rebels in an attempt to lure the West into war  and derail peace talks planned for September.

As fears of an imminent strike on Thursday prompted some Syrians  to evacuate and Israelis to line up for gas masks, French  media reported that the country had sent a ship to the  Mediterranean to join the U.S. and British ships  and submarines that are already located on the territory  of Turkey — which announced Monday its intention to take part  in the attack — and Jordan.

It was in this context that an unidentified source in the  General Staff of the Armed Forces told Interfax that escalation  in Syria required Russian forces to increase the Navy’s presence  in the region, while RIA Novosti cited an unidentified high-ranking  official who said the move was not related to the Syria crisis  and had been in the works for some time now.

Alexander Khramchikhin, a military expert with the Institute  for Political and Military Analysis, said Russia’s decision  to increase its presence in the Mediterranean was meant as  a “psychological trick” to keep Western forces from attacking  Syria.

This trick is the most serious measure Russia is ready to take,  however, and the chance of a military confrontation between Russian  and Western forces is “exceedingly unlikely,” he said.

Since July 1, four combat teams of the Russian Navy have been located  in the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean Sea.  A Naval Forces official told Interfax earlier this week that  the Russian Navy was prepared to protect Russian interests in the  region if Western forces attacked Syria, but it had not received any orders  for military action.

Meanwhile, Europe seems to have taken a step back from plans  for an immediate intervention, with Britain’s Labour Party insisting that  the decision must be postponed until results of the UN chemical  weapons team — working at an alleged site of the attack since  Monday — are announced. France also said it needed proof of a chemical  attack to begin a military operation.

Speaking in Vienna on Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon  said the UN team expected to finish its investigation Friday  and report on it Saturday.

The Labour Party’s Ed Miliband told the British Parliament that he  did not want the mistakes of the 2003 Iraq invasion to be  repeated in Syria.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that the U.S. would  implement the attack only if its allies supported it.

Khramchikhin said that if the U.S. does carry out an attack,  the most likely strategy would be a single-shot cruise missile  attack.

“They aren’t ready for any other attacks; no military groupings were  created,” he said.

According to Igor Morozov, a member of the Federation  Council’s international affairs committee, an intervention could put  the radical Islam opposition in power in Syria, which eventually  could threaten Europe and Russia.

“Those well-armed militants will start to act in the EU countries  and will create a similar threat to Russia,” he said, adding that  he feared the militants could come to Russia’s turbulent North  Caucasian region.

Meanwhile, according to Al-Arabia TV channel, Syria’s Armed Forces  started to evacuate soldiers from Damascus, and The Washington  Post reported that most people had not shown up to work and the city’s  streets were empty.

Credit To: Yekaterina Kravtsova / The Moscow Times



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