Photo: RussianTrooper / Flickr
According to reports, Russia is sending three boatloads of Marines to their base in Syria, and everyone is speculating about why. One of the more compelling theories is that Russia wants to deploy a force to secure their naval base at Tartus. Since only 360 marines are reportedly en route, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t the spearhead of an invasion — for now.
Russia has played ball with the UN and supported negotiations, clearly preferring that this whole situation just goes away as quickly as possible in the least messy manner.
While defence ministry officials quickly dismissed the claim that they were sending marines to Tartus, they left it open that that Navy could land there for “logistic reasons” at any point.
One possible “logistic reason” is that there are an estimated 30,000 Russian nationals in Syria. Should the excrement hit the air conditioning, Russia would want to pull their people out, or at least protect the base where that many people could take refuge.
Like, you know, 360 Marines defending a base at Tartus.
The base at Tartus is crucial for Russia, as it is the only place in the Mediterranean where the Navy can refuel and repair. It’s the lynchpin of Russian Mediterranean naval strategy. They will not give it up to a rebellion.
If Russia is prepping for an evacuation, this is just the first wave. Pulling that many people out of a country is a difficult endeavour.
Consider that in 1991, when Mt. Pinatubo erupted on Luzon Island in the Philippines, it took the USS Abraham Lincoln — one of the largest aircraft carriers in the world — leading a 23 ship armada to pull 45,000 Americans off of the island from an air base there. If Russia is seeing an evacuation in the future, this is just the first step of many.
This movement could signal that the Russians are acknowledging an escalation. The battle at Aleppo is taking place a mere three hours northwest of Tartus, and it’s pretty much expected that a nation with 30,000 citizens in a country with a brutal civil war underway would want an exit strategy for its people.
In all likelihood, this troop movement is just that — the groundwork for an exit strategy in the event of the Russian’s worst case scenario, and a force to hold the fort.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.