Russian navy on the move?

The Russian navy is doing more than just complicating US and Latin American relations with naval maneuvers with the Venezuelan navy, selling arms to the Chavez government and making courtesy calls on Cuba.   The Russian navy keeps busy with Mediterranean Sea deployments:

A naval task force from Russia's Northern Fleet will visit on Monday the Syrian port of Tartus, where the Russian Navy keeps a maintenance and resupply site, a Navy spokesman said.

The task force, which includes the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Admiral Levchenko destroyer and the Nikolay Chiker salvage tug....

Given that Russia's port facilities contract with Ukraine runs out in 2017, and conflicts in Ukrainian-Russian relations might make a contract renewal difficult, the port call on Tartus is most intriguing: 

The Soviet-era Navy maintenance site near Tartus is the only Russian foothold in the Mediterranean.

Russian media reports have suggested the facility could be turned into a base for the country's Black Sea Fleet, which could lose its current main base in Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula in 2017.

About 50 naval personnel and three floating piers are reportedly deployed at the Tartus site, which can accommodate up to a dozen warships, and Russia is expanding the port and building a pier in nearby El-Latakia.

No official confirmation has been made, but being on the eastern Mediterranean coast, Tartus presents Russia with opportunities and advantages.  No longer would the Kremlin have to be concerned with the Russian fleet being bottled up in the Black Sea, while Russia would gain a significant military presence in the Middle East.
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