Three Russian ships readying to go to Syria: Pentagon

WASHINGTON Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:11pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Tuesday the Russian military was preparing to dispatch three ships to Syria but noted that Moscow's stated intent was to send supplies and personnel to its naval facility in the Mediterranean port of Tartus.

"We have no indication that these vessels and that material is being sent to Syria for any other purpose than that which the Russian military has acknowledged themselves," Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain John Kirby said.

"Russian citizens have been threatened there in Syria, and their stated intention is that this is for force protection reasons."

Kirby said the ships were separate from a cargo ship off the British coast that grabbed headlines on Tuesday. That ship, believed to be carrying Russian weaponry to Syria, apparently turned back towards Russia.

Russia's Interfax news agency reported on Monday that Russia was preparing to send marines to Syria in the event that it needs to protect personnel and remove equipment from the naval facility. It cited two large landing ships.

Syria is Moscow's firmest foothold in the Middle East, buys weapons from Russia worth billions of dollars and hosts the Russian navy's only permanent warm water port outside the former Soviet Union.

But Russia has faced increasing Western criticism over arms supplies to Syria, where the United Nations says government forces have killed more than 10,000 people in a crackdown.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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Comments (3)
anotherjoe wrote:
Haha, nice try – but not buying. If you want your citizens safe, you order and evacuate them out of the combat zone. Russian troops will be able to go on the offensive for Syria, and claim it was to protect a citizen or two. Hey Obama, whatcha gonna do about it?

Jun 19, 2012 7:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
usagadfly wrote:
Where have all the people come from who want more wars for the USA?? How many of you are Americans? How many have been shot at? We have had enough stupid wars in the past 50 years. The only one that was in overall American interest was Desert Storm. The rest were disastrous interventions in places few Americans could even find on a map.

You want to go start a fight with someone? Or join one? Get a one way air ticket and a gun, at your own expense, and get going.

Jun 19, 2012 10:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
kane4 wrote:
The Russians are merely anxious to preserve their only military base outside of the former Soviet Union. We Americans have dozens the world over. The Russian navy consists of ancient, Soviet-era warships facing obsolescence, and boasts a single, aging aircraft carrier. The United States has eleven carriers, I believe, more than every other navy in the world combined. We have little to fear from the Russians, and this action on their part is no cause for alarm. If we were somehow able to guarantee the Russians that they would continue to enjoy access to this port, we may get some flexibility from them in terms of negotiating tougher sanctions or other actions to force Assad to leave and take meaningful action toward resolving the Syrian crisis, and cooperation in other areas of interest, such as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (e.g. Iran). We’d be fools to expect them to make these kinds of concessions without any assurances that their own interests will be taken into account. This isn’t weakness, it’s called being pragmatic and realistic. Right now Russia and China constantly vote together to oppose US proposals at the security council because they view us as antagonistic. Forget domestic politics in Russia, that’s none of our business. Let’s exploit geopolitics to our benefit instead of naively pushing for liberal democracy and chaos throughout the world. Russia and China for instance–Russia and China actually have a lot to quarrel over (fought a border war over land near the Amur river in the 60s, and were mortal enemies throughout the cold war) and with demographic decline in Russia, and billions of resource hungry Chinese looking for new sources of gas, minerals, and fresh water, we could develop a strategic relationship with Russia (let’s start with things we have in common: trouble with Islamic militants, piracy, an interest in stabilizing Afghanistan, etc.) to counter balance Chinese influence in the far east. Jingoistic rhetoric and unilateralism are useless in the real world, and increasingly impractical since the US doesn’t have the same clout or wealth as it used to–let’s bargain with other powers in the world to avoid conflict and help ensure stability abroad.

Jun 20, 2012 4:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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