Syrian Civil War: Suspected Russian Support of Assad Regime Adds Fodder to Escalating Crisis
In the wake of the Syria situation progressing into a civil war, some interesting developments have taken place. Thanks to the efforts of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials, international coverage of the Russian cargo ship containing Mil Mi-24 'Hind' helicopter gunships bound for Syria resulted in the cancellation of the delivery.
When the cargo ship was due to leave Scotland, the ships's insurance coverage was revoked. Now the Russian ship containing the attack helicopters is retreating back to its point of origin, Kaliningrad, Russia. The helicopters will now sit in waiting, instead of being deployed against Syrian rebels -- and most likely innocent civilians as well.
Still developing is the situation surrounding the Russian naval base, Tartus -- located on the Syrian coast. American spy satellites observed Russian naval ships loading up arms in preparation for a visit to Syria. Some speculated that this action was a sign of Russian support towards the increasingly isolated Assad regime. However, I would argue that the intent of this Russian mission is not to bolster the Assad regime and ensure the survival of its client state. Russia's perception that they need to reinforce their assets in Syria suggests this mission is more of a no-confidence vote towards adequate Syrian protection.
Another point which requires attention is the fact that the Russian refurbished helicopter gunship delivery, and the shipment of Russian naval assets are not connected or even consequential. Rather, this is reminiscent of Syria's inability to secure various international embassies -- and the subsequent withdrawal of American embassy staff in Damascus. Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, has echoed this understanding by stating, "We have no indication that these vessels are being sent to Syria for any other purpose (than that) which the Russian military has acknowledged themselves. That it's for resupplying to help with force protection at that facility." So even while Putin and Russia appear to be keeping an iron grip on Syria, they will not simultaneously flip off efforts for diplomatic conflict cessation with the other hand.