Russia will create a permanent naval base in Syria’s western port city of Tartus to expand its military influence in the country, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov announced on Monday.
Russia originally got a naval facility in Tartus after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, helping Moscow to secure vital sea trade routes to the Atlantic via the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal and Red Sea.
A permanent naval base in Syria would help Russia to expand its military presence abroad. It will allow Russia to operate more ships in the Mediterranean sea, giving its naval forces access to an enhanced facility where they can refuel and resupply.
The new plan involves upgrading and expanding the existing naval base which is currently fairly modest and unable to welcome larger warships. The base might be equipped with anti-submarine defences and new electronics systems on top of the S-300 missiles it recently deployed in the city.
Russia already has a permanent air base in Syria from which it launches fighter jets to carry out air strikes in support of Syrian regime forces on the ground.
Since a ceasefire between the regime and opposition forces collapsed in late September, Russia has steadily built up its forces in Syria, doubling supply runs by air and sea.
Last week, Pankov announced that Russia is considering plans to restore military bases in Vietnam and Cuba, which were used by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
According to Russian local media sources, the country is also in talks with Egypt to open an air base in the North African country. Russia is also interested in bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles and Singapore.