Russia has reportedly amassed a large task group in Syrian waters as Syrian president Bashar al-Assad mulls an assault on rebel positions in the northern Idlib province.
With over ten warships deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, this is Russia’s largest naval buildup since the country stated supporting the Syrian president in 2015.
According to Russian media reports, the buildup is in response to warnings from the US and allies against the use of chemical weapons. US national security adviser John Bolton told reporters last week that military intelligence suggested that Assad could use chemical weapons in the Idlib campaign.
“The US will respond to any verified chemical weapons use in Idlib or elsewhere in Syria in a swift and appropriate manner,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday.
Russia’s naval task group off Syria is composed of three Project 11356 frigates, destroyer Severomorsk, Sava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov, corvette Vyshny Volochyok, frigate Pytlivy and two Kilo-class submarines – Kolpino and Veliky Novgorod, in addition to other landing and support ships.
The buildup was confirmed by NATO and the organization’s spokesperson, Oana Lungescu, said it was important that “all actors in the region exercise restraint”.