While Russia has once again maintained that their military aid for the Syrian government is the same as it’s been for years, that’s not stopping Pentagon officials from making guesses about what the aid shipments might mean, and speculation that Russia is establishing a “forward operating base” in Latakia Province.
The speculation centers on seven Russian-made T-90 battle tanks being seen in the area near Syria’s main military airbase in Latakia, a base which Russia has been helping them expand. The Latakia base is likely to come into more heavy use for the Syrian Air Force after last week’s loss of the airbase in Idlib.
The tanks were said to be positioned defensively next to the site where Russian naval personnel are stationed at the airfield, which seems to be rapidly becoming the main route of military aid into northern Syria.
Russia has talked up the aid as helping the Assad government against ISIS, while the US is angrily condemning it on the grounds that they want to see the Assad government and ISIS both wiped out and replaced with a mostly non-existent pro-US faction.
Though the Pentagon is speculating about Russia setting up a base of their own, the deployments are also consistent with Russia simply protecting the forces they have in the area delivering aid. With al-Qaeda talking up an offensive against Latakia, it’s not surprising that Russia would be taking some precautions.
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