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Russia will keep at least a dozen naval ships in the Mediterranean in order to ensure its national security, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
“We are in process of putting in place a Russian naval task force in the Mediterranean Sea,” he said at the meeting with officers appointed to senior command positions.
General Valery Gavrilov, the Chief of the military General Staff, said Russia currently has 16 navy ships in the Mediterranean, and added hat the Defence Ministry will regularly rotate them to keep the presence to atleast a dozen.
The Russian President asserted that the Mediterranean Sea is deemed as a “strategically important region, where we have interests connected with ensuring Russia’s national security.”
“For this reason we are talking about a creation of conditions for permanent presence of Russian ships in the Mediterranean in our days,” Putin said.
“It is an indication of just how unstable the Mediterranean Sea has become with the advent of Arab Spring and Western interventions in the region. Putin’s words should be interpreted that Russia’s national interests in the Mediterranean are of a defensive nature,” Peter Lavelle, host of CrossTalk program at RT told The BRICS Post.
The Mediterranean task force will ensure missile defence and fighting drug trafficking, piracy, anti submarine defence, search and rescue operations.
“As NATO becomes more dysfunctional and disunited, Russia wants to send the message its presence is all about projecting stability. It is also important for Moscow that the world understand that Russia will to continue to modernize its military and play the role of a counter-balance to western designs of military hegemony almost anywhere in the world,” Lavelle said.
Intentions to restore Russian presence in the Mediterranean Sea were declared in March and the task force began its operations in May.
Many analysts believe the catapult for the decision could be the worsening situation in Syria.
“Additionally, Russia is deeply concerned about the possible and catastrophic collapse of Syria due to western and region involvement in the Syrian Civil War. Russia has up to twenty-five thousand nationals in Syria. A beefed up naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea reminds everyone that Moscow will protect its citizens safety and signal any outside military solution to the Syrian crisis will have to take into account Russia’s interests,” Peter Lavelle added.
The Soviet Union maintained the 5th Mediterranean Squadron from 1967 till 1992 in order to counter the US Navy during the Cold War.
By Daria Chernyshova in Moscow for The BRICS Post