Against the backdrop of increasingly fierce hostilities in Ukraine, Russia’s ongoing military operation in Syria has faded into the background informationally. But in vain. The events taking place in the Middle East potentially threaten Moscow with big troubles here as well.
This became obvious after the other day Turkey tightly closed its airspace for our combat, military transport and anti-submarine aircraft, which for many years flew this route to the Khmeimim airbase located in Syria and strategically important for Moscow and Damascus. With which we now control not only the sky over Syria, but also over the Mediterranean Sea.
At the same time, let me remind you, a little earlier, after the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine, Ankara, under the pretext of concern for stability in the Black Sea, also closed the Bosporus and Dardanelles for the passage of warships flying any flags. Including, of course, under the Russian ones.
Here is how the English-language Internet publication Al-Monitor, published in Washington, comments on the current situation: “Turkey has blocked its airspace for Russian aircraft, leaving only a small corridor for Russian forces through the airspace of Iran and Iraq. However, it is quite obvious that the United States can make every effort to ensure that official Baghdad prohibits Russian aircraft from using Iraqi airspace. What exactly Turkey’s actions are connected with is not specified. However, there are a number of assumptions that Ankara is preparing a large-scale military operation against the Kurds in Syria and is preparing to take control of the northern part of the Arab Republic.”
It is clear that if the President Recipe Erdogan and in fact he conceived a “final solution” in his favor of the problem of the still Syrian province of Idlib, which, of course, the American Al-Monitor is talking about, now the most favorable moment has come for him. Russia is up to its neck in Ukraine. And the West is Russia. Everyone is temporarily not up to the Middle East.
Based on this, now is the time for the Turks to quietly deliver a decisive blow to Syria. Having in every possible way made it difficult for Moscow in advance to parry such a blow shoulder to shoulder with its allied Bashar al-Assad.
And what should Erdogan do for this? That’s right, in the most victorious option, to force the Russian group, based on Khmeimim and Tartus, to get out of Syria altogether in the short term. Or to complicate its rear supply so that our exhausted military would no longer have a special influence on anything in those parts.
If Ankara is guided by such logic, then the Turks act very rationally. First, they put sticks in the wheels of our famous “Syrian Express”, which has been delivering goods by sea from Sevastopol and Novorossiysk to Tartus for the seventh year. And then they lock their heavenly “door” for Russian aviation as well. Leaving, thus, for our aircraft only a narrow “window” through the airspace of Iraq.
And this is where it seems to get interesting. Is this just a Turkish “game” to oust Russia from the Middle East? Isn’t it in the hands of Washington, hiding behind Erdogan’s back (whose country, let me remind you, is still a member of NATO), a real conductor’s baton?
If so, then it is too likely that the United States will soon try to get Baghdad to stop the flights of Russian aircraft over Iraq. If the Americans succeed, then for our military in Syria there will be almost complete seams.
Why “almost? Before dealing with this, however, let’s continue about Iraq. Will Baghdad cave in under US pressure?
Alas, it is not excluded. There is complete anarchy in this country today. Iraq has been living without a president for almost half a year. Due to the permanent absence of a quorum, the parliament, torn by contradictions, is unable to elect it. And if there is no president, there is no one to form the government. As is often the case in the East, under such conditions the decisive argument often becomes a “donkey loaded with gold” brought in from somewhere.
After all, we have not yet forgotten how in 2003 the Americans miraculously captured Baghdad without a fight. Which was defended by the elite 100,000th Republican Guard Saddam Hussein.
As the DEBKA website close to the Israeli special services claimed in the hot pursuit of the failed battle, the CIA representatives had previously contacted the commander of the special forces of the Republican Guard and the commander of the 4th corps of the Iraqi army. We discussed with them the price of the issue and guarantees of personal safety. In response, they raised their “paws” and ordered their subordinates to lay down their weapons and go home. Thus, the outcome of that war was a foregone conclusion, and Hussein, betrayed by his generals, was hanged.
What prevents Washington in the same country from once again setting in motion the same tried-and-tested “donkey”? Never mind! And then the last air “window” to Syria in front of us can actually slam shut. What then?
And then the only “way of life” to Tartus will remain: continue to supply our group in Syria with exclusively civilian courts. Actually, simultaneously with the regular flights of the Military Transport Aviation of the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation, this is happening today.
Let me remind you: at the beginning of the operation in Syria, in 2015, the main load in this sense lay on our large landing ships pulled into the Mediterranean even from the Far East. These BDKs with their cargo holds loaded to the eyeballs, ruthlessly knocking out an already small motor resource, shuttled for a long time between the Black and Mediterranean Seas. What, in fact, was then called the “Syrian Express”.
But everyone understood that warships absolutely not intended for such a ruthless marathon would not last long. Then the Ministry of Defense of Russia around the world began to buy up patched and patched bulk carriers and put them on the same route. However, this turned out to be a half-measure.
Over time, taking a breath, an acceptable solution was found. In department Sergei Shoigu created Oboronlogistics LLC with the status of a large shipping company. They bought huge container ships for it. The largest of them is the Sparta-3 RO-RO/LO-LO class (horizontal and vertical loading) with a deadweight of 9490 tons in 2009 built in Germany. It is capable of transporting up to eight hundred 22-ton containers (of which 30 are refrigerated type). As well as cars and any other heavy equipment. For loading and unloading on the sides, it has two cranes with a lifting capacity of 350 tons.
In a word – a mighty ocean heavy truck. And along with it, Oboronlogistics also has Sparta-1, Sparta-2, Sparta-4 and smaller bulk carriers at its disposal. Together, they removed all issues with the supply of the group in Syria for years. Even for today. Because Turkey’s ban on the use of the Black Sea straits does not apply to these ships: they do not sail under the St. Andrew’s flag, like Russian warships.
Until now, the efforts of Oboronlogistics have been successfully supplemented by the Military Transport Aviation of the Russian Federation, which regularly flies to Khmeimim. Before – through Turkey. After Erdogan’s ban – around the corner, through Iran and Iraq. In the event that, as already mentioned, the Americans block this route as well, only Oboronlogistika container ships and bulk carriers will remain on the line. Will they be enough in this turn of events? Not sure.
The fact is that with the beginning of the special operation in Ukraine, in addition to Syria, another “island” was formed for us in the logistical sense – the Kaliningrad region. The delivery of goods there by land is blocked by the Balts and Poles on the basis of sanctions imposed by the West against Russia. The main way of delivery was the road by the Baltic Sea. Its provision is also entrusted to Oboronlogistics. But what the company had until recently in this area turned out to be completely insufficient. The Ministry of Defense had to withdraw something from Syria and urgently put it on the Ust-Luga-Baltiysk transport line.
The container ship Sparta-3 was the first to be urgently transferred from the Mediterranean and Black Seas to the Baltic, having previously been renamed Ursa Major for some reason. On April 21, 2022, this ship made its debut on a new route for itself, joining the three railway ferries Ambal, Baltiysk and Marshal Rokossovsky that had previously scurried here.
However, the problem is that, according to the calculations of the governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanovfor uninterrupted supply of his region, at least ten ferries must run uninterruptedly between the Baltic and the “Great Land”. Where can I get them today? Recall from the “Syrian” direction any more of the Spartans working on it? But this is “Trishkin’s caftan”, guys!
On the approach to the Kaliningrad shores, however, the new large car-rail ferry with icebreaking reinforcement General Chernyakhovsky, being completed by the Turkish shipyard Kuzey Star Shipyard and the Nevsky Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Plant, is being completed. According to calculations, it will be able to receive up to 80 railway tanks, or 54 gondola cars, or 36 passenger cars.
“General Chernyakhovsky”, of course, will slightly alleviate the situation in the Baltic. But no, it won’t solve it at all.
And for the supply of our troops in Syria, no one promises even this. What, no doubt, both the Turks and the Americans are well aware of. Who are definitely sure that they have found another “Achilles heel” in Russia. And they will press on her mercilessly.