In a move aimed at cementing Russia’s long-term presence in Syria, the two nations today signed an agreement on the status of the Tartus Naval Base, allowing Russia to dramatically expand and modernize the facility. Tartus is Russia’s lone naval port in the Mediterranean.
The new deal secures Russia’s presence for an additional 49 years, and will involve dredging the port area and installing new floating berths, intending to expand the facility to the point that it can handle 11 warships at any given time.
Tartus base was initially established by the Soviet Union in 1971, one of several supply facilities they had around the world at the time. In the post-Soviet era, Russia forgave a substantial debt to the Assad government, and was given a deal to expand the facility in 2006.
This new expansion envisions making Tartus even bigger, and is likely a function of the Syrian government’s dependence on Russia during the ongoing civil war, which probably gave Russia considerable leverage to get a long term deal on the matter.