Syria Civil War Deepens as Russia Deploys Warships and Marines to Support Assad

According to an unidentified Russian naval official, two Russian warships with an accompanying force of marines will head to Syria under the pretext of protecting Russian citizens in the country. But the real purpose for this naval expedition is likely for the purpose of bolstering Assad's increasingly isolated regime in Syria.

The two warships, which the New York Times has identified as "amphibious assault ships" laden with a unspecified number of Russian marines, are scheduled to land in Tartus, the second largest port in Syria, to dock at a Cold War-era naval base. The mission of the Russian marines is not clear, though one may speculate that they will likely provide support to the Assad regime and serve as a deterrent to Western powers who are tempted to intervene in Syria. 

The Russian naval official explained that the naval mission "jointly with the marine units they carry are capable of protecting the security of Russian citizens and evacuating a part of the property of the logistics base." This makes it seem like Russian intervention in favor of Assad will become a stronger possibility. 

A comparable instance occurred in the 2011 NATO airstrike as China evacuated its citizens from Libya prior to the start of the campaign. In that instance, China's evacuation was limited to military transports and civilian charter ships from Greece with one warship acting in a protective role. Though some pondered the implications of such an efficient military-like operation, the operation went off with little hints of Chinese support for the Gaddafi regime.

Russia has a vested interest in the survival of the Assad regime, especially given the large volumes of arms that Russia sells to Syria and the importance that Syria plays in Russia's Middle East policy. Russia is Syria's biggest supplier of arms and munitions, including powerful attack helicopters, which the Assad regime has used to suppress the Free Syrian Army.

This isn't the first military expedition Russia has mobilized in support of Assad since the unrest in Syria began last year. Towards the end of November Russia sent its flagship aircraft carrier to Tartus in a "show of solidarity with the Syrian people," a move which Western media saw as seeking to deter Western powers from openly intervening in Syria and potentially toppling the Assad Regime.

To be sure, one cannot say with any great certainty that the Russians plan to get involved in the suppression of the rebel forces in Syria, but the presence of Russian warships and ground forces will certainly make the West likely hinder any form of open support in the Free Syrian Army's fight against the Assad regime.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Dillon Zhou

Dillon currently works as a Foreign Teacher at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu. He graduated from International Relations Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012. He previously worked at the Cyber Conflict Studies Association in Vienna, VA as a research assistant. He has also worked at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania and JFK Library's Declassification Unit. His primary areas of interests are in US-China Relations and US Cyber Security Policy. He is proficient in speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese.

MORE FROM

These secret wartime tunnels were hidden beneath London for 100 years. Here’s what’s inside.

The passages were once used to shuffle 4 million letters a day.

London police identify Makram Ali, 51, as the man killed in the Finsbury Park mosque attack

Makram Ali, a father of six, died after a van attack on worshippers at a London mosque.

Cladding Similar to Grenfell Tower Could Be on 600 U.K. Buildings, PM's Office Says

Local authorities estimate about 600 buildings across Britain, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been fitted with the same type of flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

Archbishop apologizes for Church of England's role in hiding years of "systemic" sexual abuse

Ex-bishop Peter Ball admitted in 2015 to abusing 18 young men over two decades.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Tropical Storm Cindy, Housing for Grenfell fire survivors, Uber CEO steps down

The important stories to get you caught up for Thursday.

EPA committee told that "climate change will be de-emphasized" by Trump administration

A key advisory committee has been "totally decimated" ex-members say.

These secret wartime tunnels were hidden beneath London for 100 years. Here’s what’s inside.

The passages were once used to shuffle 4 million letters a day.

London police identify Makram Ali, 51, as the man killed in the Finsbury Park mosque attack

Makram Ali, a father of six, died after a van attack on worshippers at a London mosque.

Cladding Similar to Grenfell Tower Could Be on 600 U.K. Buildings, PM's Office Says

Local authorities estimate about 600 buildings across Britain, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been fitted with the same type of flammable cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

Archbishop apologizes for Church of England's role in hiding years of "systemic" sexual abuse

Ex-bishop Peter Ball admitted in 2015 to abusing 18 young men over two decades.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Tropical Storm Cindy, Housing for Grenfell fire survivors, Uber CEO steps down

The important stories to get you caught up for Thursday.

EPA committee told that "climate change will be de-emphasized" by Trump administration

A key advisory committee has been "totally decimated" ex-members say.