Russia taking “appropriate” measure against the “terrorist threat” in Syria, has decided to maintain a permanent military presence by expanding its airbase into a permanent facility. Russia’s Hmeimim airbase is just outside Latakia, Syria, the coastal town that houses the Russian warplanes used in the bombing campaigns to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. New radio and air control systems will be installed and runways expanded to make the base a more permanent facility.
Russian Senator, Frants Klintsevich, the deputy head of Russia’s Senate Committee for defence said,
“After its legal status is agreed upon, Hmeimim will become a Russian military base. The appropriate infrastructure will be built and our servicemen will live in worthy conditions. Reconnaissance and fire support from the Russian air force allows the Syrian army to successfully complete the tasks at hand, Russia understands that if measures are not taken, the major terrorist threat will reach it too.”
The senator also stated that the number of Russian warplanes on the airbase could increase but dismissed the idea that nuclear weapons and/or heavy bombers would be permanently based there. The move signals Moscow’s desire to establish a more permanent military presence in Syria, which President Vladimir Putin had requested parliament ratify the agreement that was drawn up with Damascus last year in order to set up the base. The base can currently accommodate only 50 aircraft and up to 1,000 service members but the base is expected to be altered to increase the total number of troops that can be stationed at the base at one time.
The airbase would be the second permanent base Russia has in Syria, with the first being a naval facility in Tartus built in 1971 (Russian bombing campaigns started from Tartus in September 2015 and aided Assad’s military forces against Islamic State). This is in direct contrast to the Kremlin’s statements before that it wasn’t building any other military facilities in Syria and it additionally contradicts Putin’s earlier move of withdrawing the bulk of Russian military from Syria due to Moscow stating the overall mission had been accomplished.