The media is circulating news saying that Russia is allegedly establishing a military base in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. So what is the truth around this issue? And in case it happened, what is the importance of establishing a military base in Syria?
What do the Satellite Images Signify?
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that “these claims are false”, adding that “There have been no and are no ‘new Russian bases’ on the territory of Syria’s Palmyra”, clarifying that “the satellite photographs of the area’s territory, published by UNESCO and mentioned by the agency… feature a temporary camp of units of the International Anti-Mine Center of Russia’s Armed Forces, which earlier engaged in mine clearing in the historical part of Palmyra”.
Russian News Agency TASS reported that the general was commenting on AP’s reports citing a US cultural heritage protection organization that Russia’s military are building a new military base in Palmyra, as well as on the publication of a satellite image of a military town in close proximity to the cultural facilities.
“The deployment of the temporary camp until the end of the mine clearing effort has been agreed with the Culture Ministry and other state institutions of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Konashenkov said.
Igor Konashenkov said in early May that having another base in Syria would not be economically feasible for the Russian Aerospace Forces.
“There’s absolutely no need for that. This is not expedient even economically,” Konashenkov told the media in reply to a question.
He explained that practically all aircraft based at Hmeimim had a range long enough to reach any point of Syria. The air facility is totally self-reliant. All crucial supplies, such as fuel, ammunition and other items are delivered from Russia. Planes and helicopters undergo all maintenance and repairs locally.
The Importance of a 5th Military Base
Palmyra, the ancient Semitic city, which was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1980, was captured by ISIS, and a large part of its ruins were destroyed in August 2015. The Russian Military assisted the Syrian Army in liberating Palmyra, and Russian engineers have been de-mining large areas of land in that city.
Palmyra is 215 km northeast of the Syrian capital, Damascus, and 740.9 km away from Iraq, which means that Palmyra is in the middle of Syria, and it is of a desert-like nature, and it is not located near the sea. So what is the importance of establishing a 5th Russian military base in Syria? “Russia-now” conducted a phone call interview with a military expert, who preferred to stay anonymous, in order to be more informed about this issue.
The military expert explained that “In case a Russian Military base was established in Palmyra, it would be highly symbolic, for the following reasons:
- The nearness of Palmyra from Al-Shaer Oil Fields, which the Syrian Army was fighting for, against the terrorists.
- Palmyra’s nearness from Tayfour airport.
- In case a military base was established in Palmyra, al-Raqqa, which is a “stronghold” for ISIS, and other terrorist groups, will be under attack from the Russian Military (since it is 80 Km away from Palmyra and 454 Km away from Saudi Arabia, which makes it easier for Russia to target the U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia).
- Russia will benefit from Palmyra its operations, to block the way between Mosul and Raqqa, which makes Palmyra a gateway to Iraq (in case the unannounced Russian- American deal failed).
- The presence of a Russian military base in Palmyra will cut the supplies from the terrorist organizations, especially that the military base will be strategical, and it will assist the Syrian army in moving easily towards Raqqa (in case they decided to start this battle).
Russia already has 4 military bases in Syria:
- Hmeimim military base, which is the second most important Russian military base in Syria.
- Tartous Military base (the oldest Russian military base in Syria).
- Kwereis Airport Military Base (Kweires is already a military airport, and the Russian military base was established there about a year ago (the base is not as huge as the first two). However, this airport holds a high significance, since it remained besieged for more than a year, until the Russian military intervened and assisted in breaking the siege.
- Shouairat military base.
Recently, more than 4,000 Russian military experts, including technicians, pilots, engineers, and Russian soldiers arrived to Syria, to assist the Syrian Army.
In general, the establishment of a 5th Russian military base in Syria is a military fortification for Russia.