Not 24 hours after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that a pre-emptive strike (by the US and/or Israel) would violate international law, Moscow put muscle into his warning: Tuesday, April 3, the Russian guided missile destroyer Smetliviy arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus from its Black Sea base for a naval exercise. The warship’s support group is on the way.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Russian flotilla carried a threefold message for Washington:
1. The Russian-Iranian strategy of propping up the Assad regime which has brought the Syrian ruler close to victory over his foes, will continue: Diplomacy will be propelled by military impetus.
2. Russia is providing the Assad regime with defense systems capable of repelling foreign military intervention.
3. Consigning the Smetliviy warship to Syria illustrates Moscow’s new rapid response policy: Russia is launching a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean to match the “Noble Dina” air and naval maneuver the US, Israel and Greece are conducting across a broad expanse of sea between Crete and the Israeli bases at Haifa and Ashdod.
Israeli warships and air force jets may therefore find themselves not just operating alongside US naval and aircraft but confronted suddenly by one of the largest destroyers in the Russian fleet (NATO-coded ASW-submarine warfare), whose decks are the launching base for anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine missiles.
The Smetliviy’s support group, believed to be a supply vessel and a submarine, passed through the Bosporus Saturday, March 31 on their way to Tartus.
Monday, April 2, DEBKAfile reported: Russia and Iran set to counter US/Israeli strike against Iran. US-led Mediterranean naval drill.