Russian nuclear missile cruiser to dock at Syrian port on Yom Kippur eve
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
October 1, 2008, 9:21 PM (GMT+02:00)
Peter the Great is armed with nuclear missiles
Russian Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo disclosed Wednesday, Oct. 1, that a four-ship squadron led by the Peter the Great nuclear missile cruiser will call in at the Libyan port of Tripoli and “other Middle East ports” before heading out to the Caribbean for joint maneuvers with Venezuela.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that one of those ports is Tartus, Syria, where preparations are afoot to receive the visiting Russian flotilla.
Peter the Great , one of the most advanced naval vessels afloat, may in fact anchor at the new facility the Russians are building at Syria’s second major port, Latakia, for its first visit to Syria; the rest of the squadron, the Admiral Chabanenko submarine, a reconnaissance vessel and a fourth ship, will dock at Tartus.
Peter the Great is designed to sink large surface vessels such as aircraft carriers. The ship’s Granit (Nato designated SS-N-19 Shipwreck) anti-ship cruise missiles (20 missile launchers) can destroy vessels up to 500 km distant in ripple-fire mode.
An S-300F defense missile complex is installed on Peter the Great , with 12 launchers and 96 vertical launch air defense missiles.
The Navy spokesman in Moscow said the Russian warships will perform maneuvers in the Mediterranean, without adding details. They will pass through the Strait of Gibraltar Sunday, Oct. 5, visit Tripoli next and on Oct, 8 or 9, put in at a Syrian port.
Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the Egyptian-Syrian Yom Kippur attack on Israel, the Russian warships’ arrival in Syria has serious connotations:
1. It means that prime minister Ehud Olmert will be wasting his time if he intends using his talks in Moscow next week with president Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin to ask them to drop their plan for a permanent base at a Syrian port. That plan is clearly going full steam ahead.
2. The Yom Kippur War of 1993 is recorded in Russian and Arab military annals as the high point of Russian-Arab military and intelligence cooperation. The Soviet Union as it was then was responsible for the great deception which disguised Arab war preparations behind a screen of misdirection and gulled Israeli intelligence into complacence.
Moscow is signaling Jerusalem on this sensitive date that it has decided to revert to its old military ties with Damascus on the same scale as its historic 20th century partnership.
3. The precedence the Russian navy is awarding to visiting Middle East ports before Venezuela attests to the importance Moscow attaches to its new Damascus-Tehran-Caracas alignment opposite the US-Israel alliance.