Moscow announced renovation had begun on the Syrian port of Tartus to provide Russia with its first long-term naval presence on the Mediterranean.
As the two naval chiefs talked in Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov met Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki in the Russian capital for talks on the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant by the end of the year.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the commander of the Russian, Navy Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, and his Syrian counterpart, Gen. Taleb al Barri, spent all Friday working on details for the outfitting of Tartus port to accommodated increased Russian fleet Mediterranean missions not far from Israel’s shores.
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Mottaki’s unannounced visit to the Russian capital focused on the timetable for Atomstroiexport to finish work on the Bushehr reactor after five years of delays.
Moscow has sharpened its tone in comments aimed at the West and the US in particular. President Dmitiry Medvedev said Friday that Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia was the equivalent for Russia of the 9/11 attack on America. Even if Georgia had become a NATO member, he said, he would not have thought twice about ordering the Russian army to go in.
Prime minister Vladimir Putin, after putting Moscow’s case on Georgia to the Western media, warned the US that stationing a missile defense shield near Russia’s borders would start an arms race in Europe. There was no basis for a new Cold War, he said.
DEBKAfile’s sources interpret Friday’s events as indicating that Russia’s leaders have determined not to declare a Cold War in Europe but to open a second anti-Western front in the Middle East.
In the second half of August, DEBKA file and DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s analysts discussed this re-orientation at length (Russia’s Second Front: Iran-Syria), disclosing that Moscow had decided to use its ties with Tehran and Damascus to challenge the United State and the West in the Middle East as well as the Caucasian, the Black Sea and the Caspian region.
The traumatic impact of the Georgia conflict on Russia’s rulers came through in the remarks of an unnamed Kremlin official quoted by the Russian media this week: “Everything has changed since the war with Georgia. What seemed impossible before is more than possible now when our friends become our enemies and our enemies our friends. Russia will respond. A number of possibilities are being considered, including hitting America where it hurts most – Iran and Syria.”
In aligning with Tehran and Damascus, Moscow stands not only against America but also Israel. This volatile world region is undergoing cataclysmic changes at a time when Israel is virtually without a fully competent prime minister and key political and military decision-making by the rest of the government is at a standstill.