Putin speaks out on Russia's naval plan

Moscow - Russia announced on Thursday that it will keep a fleet of about dozen navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea, a move President Vladimir Putin said is needed to protect his country's national security.

Putin said the plan should not be seen as sabre rattling, but it comes as Moscow is serving as a key ally and arms supplier to Syrian President Bashar Assad during that nation's civil war.

The only naval base that Russia has in the Mediterranean and anywhere outside the former Soviet Union is located in Syria.

Russian ships have been making regular visits to the Mediterranean, but the statements by Putin and other officials mark an attempt to revive a Soviet-era practice, when Moscow had a permanent navy presence in the waterway.

The chief of the military General Staff, General Valery Gerasimov, said on Thursday that Russia currently has 16 navy ships in the Mediterranean.

The defence ministry said it would regularly rotate them to keep a presence of about a dozen.

Speaking at a meeting with the top military brass, Putin said the sea is a "strategically important region, where we have interests connected with ensuring Russia's national security”.

The statement is part of Putins's efforts to boost his nation's military and showcase its power worldwide.

Evacuation plan

Military officials have said in the past that Russian navy ships in the Mediterranean could be used to evacuate equipment and personnel from the Syrian port of Tartus.

Previous deployments have invariably included amphibious landing vessels, which could serve the purpose.

Analysts and retired naval officers point out that Russia lost much of its navy capability during the post-Soviet economic decline, when the military had to mothball relatively modern ships for lack of funds to maintain them.

The military has commissioned new navy ships as part of a costly military build-up, but their construction has dragged on slowly.

Experts say the current plan will stretch the Russian fleet capability and note that the base in Tartus, a rundown facility made up of a floating pier and a few aging barracks and warehouses, can't provide a sufficient backup for the permanent navy presence in the region.

It's also too small for big ships, which must stay at sea.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 362 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 4456 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
12% - 629 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.09
-0.8%
Rand - Pound
20.21
-0.2%
Rand - Euro
17.74
-0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.59
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.1%
Gold
1,660.90
0.0%
Silver
19.03
0.0%
Palladium
2,166.50
0.0%
Platinum
864.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
85.14
-2.4%
Top 40
57,390
+0.8%
All Share
63,726
+0.7%
Resource 10
60,230
+0.7%
Industrial 25
77,400
+0.8%
Financial 15
13,796
+0.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE