MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has decided to establish naval bases in Libya, Syria and Yemen within a few years, Itar-Tass news agency quoted military officials as saying on Friday, in a sign of Moscow’s growing foreign policy ambitions.
“It is difficult to say how much time it will take to create the bases for our fleet in these countries, but within a few years this will be done without question,” a military official was quoted as saying.
“The political decision on this question has been taken,” the official said. A spokesman for the Russian navy could not immediately be reached for comment.
A senior general said it was too early to name any foreign ports that could host Russian bases.
“There are negotiations conducted with foreign governments. Such publications (on bases) may have a negative effect on the way of these talks,” Itar-Tass quoted the Russian army’s deputy chief of staff, Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, as saying.
The Kremlin is seeking to play a more assertive role in world politics and has been using its military to project its new-found confidence beyond its borders.
Analysts have said that the Syrian port of Tartus could be revived as a Russian naval base. During the Cold War, the Soviet navy had a permanent presence in the Mediterranean, using Tartus as a supply point.
Russian media reported that opening a naval base in the Libyan port of Benghazi was among the main issues discussed during Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s visit to Moscow in October last year.
Nogovitsyn said it was unclear when Russian naval bases abroad could open. “No one can forecast when this problem will be solved,” he told Itar-Tass. “We need permanent bases, and this is very costly. You have to thoroughly calculate it all.”
Russia had to vacate the Cam Ranh base in Vietnam in 2002 because its rent was becoming a burden for the state coffers.
“Now we have learnt to count our money,” Nogovitsyn said.
Writing by Conor Humphries and Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Elizabeth Piper